This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Down To Earth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Women Farmers In Uttarakhand Are Bearing The Brunt Of A Rampant Monkey Menace

More from Down To Earth

By Sunita Narain:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

It is time we redefined what we mean by conservation and what constitutes gender issues. I am in Almora, where a group of anguished women are telling me how their already hard life has become harsher because of marauding monkeys and wild boars. Their stories are heart-rending. One woman tells me how her young daughter was attacked. Another one talks of how she was mauled. She shows me her scars. All talk about how their crops are being devastated. “We get one-third (yield) or even less now.” Nothing is left, another says. “We can’t sleep at night … wild boars plunder our crops.”

This comes after back-breaking work to get the food. In the Himalayas, women (there are no men, to speak of, in agriculture in this region) collect large loads of green fodder, carry them on their back up and down precipitous slopes, all to feed the livestock, not for milk but for manure. The steep mountain terraces are poor in fertility and this is the only way to improve productivity. Now even this is threatened.

Their pain is palpable. Their livelihood is being destroyed. One woman tells me with obvious contempt, “The government says it will give us grain under the Food Security Act. We tell them, ‘Keep it. Your grain is substandard and poor in nutrition. Protect our land and we will give you double the grain.’ Our mandua is nutritious and healthy.” 

women farmer uttarakhand
For representation only. Source: Pradeep Gaur/Getty

I ask them, why they are raising this issue now. After all, they have always lived in this forested region where animal attacks are common. The older women reply, quickly and strenuously, “We have never seen anything like this. The numbers have multiplied many times.” I then say that this is clearly because we have destroyed habitats of monkeys and other wild animals. Forests are being destroyed and so animals are turning to human settlements to find food. It is our fault, I say. “We have not encroached on the forests. It is the city that has grown and taken over forest habitats,” they point out. What surprises me is the next response: “These are not our monkeys. These are aggressive and violent.” I probe more. The forest department, it seems, was bringing drugged monkeys from other places and leaving them in the forested villages. All this was being done at night and people had no information.

This does not surprise me. Even in Delhi, where the rich and famous live, when monkeys became a big menace they were ‘relocated’ to forested regions on the outskirts of the city. Now people like me can be wildlife enthusiasts without having to deal with animals in their backyard. But it does make me realise just how callous (indeed criminal) our conservation policies are.

I summon courage to ask what they want. After all, monkeys are worshipped as descendants of Hanuman. Will they allow killing? First, there is silence. I can feel the tension. Then one woman bursts out, “Yes. These monkeys are not Hanuman but Bali — the evil one.” The rest join in. “We want the government to act.” This would mean that the Uttarakhand government would have to declare monkey vermin and then undertake culling.

Currently, governments struggling to deal with the menace are relocating and sterilising monkeys. This measure is clearly failing. Sterilisation requires capturing the animal and holding it for three days before sterilising and freeing it. The programme is designed to fail. There are too many animals, capturing is difficult and it is impossible to know which animal has been sterilised. Worse, there is no clear idea of the optimum number that needs to be sterilised, so breeding continues. Primatologists say at least one-third of the population needs to be sterilised to stabilise (not reduce) growth. This is impossible to achieve.

What, then, is the solution? It is difficult to say. The Uttarakhand government has recently declared wild boar vermin, but who will kill the animal? In neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, the monkey has been included in the category. But where are the guns? The forest department is least bothered to help villagers. These villages are run by women; the men have migrated or are looking for jobs outside agriculture. In one case, the women described how they ganged up and took out sticks to beat the animal that was marauding their field. “It turned on us and we had to take cover.”

The problem is urgent, real and causing huge damage and pain. It cannot be shrugged off. It needs resolution.

This is where it gets complicated. One, the issue concerns largely women. But who will take up this ‘gender’ issue? It is women who farm the mountain slopes. We have no time for them. Two, the issue concerns how we practise conservation. We want the pleasure of seeing animals in the wild, but without paying the real price of that protection. This is not acceptable. Should not be.

You must be to comment.

More from Down To Earth

Similar Posts

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below