Vrindavan, 2019.04.22 (VT): One of the main issues in this years’ election in Mathura-Vrindavan was the monkey menace that has residents in the grip of fear. Incidents of monkeys attacking people have become frequent, and there have been cases where they have also proved fatal.
In the recent past, various measures were taken to tackle the issue, but they were either ineffective or had limited impact. The situation has reached a state where some people are advocating the culling of these unruly primates. This, however, is not the popular sentiment among Brajwasis.
Many still believe that working on the root cause i.e deforestation is the only ethical and enduring solution. While this is both a noble and logically-sound approach, the sad truth is that it may not be practical in the present situation given the fact that buyers and builders on one hand and the government and administration on the other are all complicit in deforestation.
The land of forests that Braj-Vrindavan once was is being transformed into a concrete jungle at an alarming pace. This has impacted the lives of animals and humans.
It is difficult to believe that around three decades back, Vrindavan’s Panchkosi Parikrama was soaked in greenery. The entire Parikrama route from Keshi Ghat to Chamunda Devi temple was lined with dense gardens on one side, while the Yamuna flowed freely on the other.
These gardens were home to monkeys and other animals that subsisted on fruits and other edibles from trees. In addition to food, the vegetation also provided them with shade and shelter.
Today, this stretch is populated by over two dozen colonies, buildings, temples and ashrams, which, were invaded by homeless and hungry monkeys. The monkeys adapted to the urban environment, leading to an explosion in the monkey population. When these settlements were being built, neither locals nor the administration raised any objection. Obviously, nothing was done to stop them either.
The problem is particularly bad in Vrindavan, where there are plentiful food scraps available and large numbers of unsuspecting tourists. Like humans, monkeys live in family and social groups and learn from each other. The clans of monkeys in Vrindavan have picked up the habit of taking phones and glasses, then slowly chewing on them in full view of their owner, until a mango drink is thrown their way.
Dr. Abhishek Sharma, who has been working on the issue says that relocating the monkeys to abundant habitats may help alleviate the problem. Hema Malini has repeatedly promised a Monkey Safari Park, which may be the only practical solution given the paucity of natural habitats available.