A langur rides to work before Maneka’s campaign
New Delhi, Oct. 9: The home ministry, responsible for securing India’s 3.3 million sqkm, will soon have a new “brigade” to secure a 2sqkm patch under its nose.
The ministry has for the first time floated a tender to hire monkey-catchers to protect the seat of power — North Block and South Block.
The move follows months of futile attempts to fight the menace, with ministry sources saying “a simian siege” grips the governance hub after sundown each day.
This has been happening since last December when langurwallahs — bands of nomads with langurs that scared away the monkeys — disappeared following a campaign by Maneka Gandhi.
The BJP leader and animal rights activist said langurs, being protected species, should not be exploited and must be released back into the wild. Some of those with the animals were arrested under the wildlife protection act following Maneka’s intervention.
With the langurs gone, the monkeys were back at play. “We had no other option but to hire monkey-catchers and this is why the tender was floated after much deliberation," said an official of the North Block that houses the home ministry.
According to him, the monkeys take over the buildings soon after the offices close each evening. The rampage begins a few hours later at night when the simians hop from one place to another, break flowerpots, uproot saplings and even damage phone wires.
That’s not all. “Two landmark buildings stink each morning as the monkeys relieve themselves before leaving. On weekends when the offices are closed, the mess continues even during the day,” the official said.
Gardeners along with several Group D staff have to clean up the place before the offices open at 9am each working day. “We often have to remove over 50 broken flower pots and 15 to 20 damaged saplings and replace them with fresh ones. It has become a daily ritual,” one of the gardeners complained.
The tenders were issued late last month, with agencies interested in the job asked to submit rates. “The agency will be responsible for driving away the monkeys. That includes terraces. The monkey-catchers will work all days a week,” says the tender letter, signed by under-secretary N.K. Arora.
Earlier, the ministry had hired six to seven langurwallahs who had been keeping the site free of monkeys between 7pm and 6am.
Each langurwallah was paid Rs 7,500 a month and the group had been issued ID cards for access. “The mere presence of a langur can scare monkeys away,” another official said. But all this was before Maneka stepped in.
Now the hopes rest on the new plan. The tender terms for the monkey-catchers specify that the home ministry and department of personnel and training (DoPT) will share the expenditure in the ratio 2:1. “In case of absence on any day, deduction will be made from the monthly bill,” the tender letter says.
At least 15 catchers will be hired, said another official, adding the lure-and-trap ploy will be their main weapon in the battle.
An officer of the Parliament Street police station, which oversees the area, dubbed the monkeys a “terror”. “We (Delhi police) arrested (Lashkar bomb expert) Abdul Karim Tunda but we are at our wits’ end trying to secure the seat of governance from monkeys,” an officer said, adding the langurwallahs did a great job till Maneka’s campaign ousted them.