Advice to MPs: When you see a monkey, leave it alone

Lok Sabha secretariat lists tips on tackling the simian menace that plagues the seats of power

By Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in New Delhi
  • Published 13.11.18, 3:51 AM
  • Updated 13.11.18, 2:04 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
A monkey secures the right of way across the caring hands of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Parliament complex in February. Prem Singh

Men and women who deliberate on some of the countries’ weightiest issues have received the unusual advice to nimbly “leave them alone”.

Mercifully for Indian democracy, what the parliamentarians have been asked to skirt are not bills and motions but Delhi’s lawless monkeys that are a regular torment for the seats of power.

“Leave them alone and they will leave you alone” is among the tips the Lok Sabha secretariat offers the MPs in its first ever advisory on tackling the simian menace inside the Parliament complex, issued on Monday ahead of the winter session.

“Monkeys have in the past caused havoc in and around Parliament; so we decided to issue the circular in the interest of the MPs, ministers and visitors. The Parliament security service took an entire day to finalise the dos and don’ts,” a secretariat official said.

Monkeys have long been a part of the scenery at Parliament and other government buildings, even frequenting North and South Block, which house key ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the VIP bungalows in Lutyens Delhi.

Earlier, the civic authorities hired langur keepers to bring their animals to the office complexes during working hours. But keeping langurs was banned in 2015 thanks to the efforts of minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi.

“The langurs used to chase the monkeys away. In their absence, the monkeys have been bossing around the Parliament complex,” the secretariat official said.

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Parliament security had a harrowing time in 2016 when a canny simian sneaked into the Parliament House library adjoining Central Hall. It stayed in for almost half an hour, jumping on chairs and tables and making a mess of the library, before scampering away through the main door.

The secretariat has suggested that MPs and visitors avoid direct eye contact with the monkeys, stay nimble-footed around them but never run, and never tease or feed them.

An official recounted how Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar had, after being appointed a minister in 2004, refused to move into his allotted bungalow on Kamaraj Marg as the long-unoccupied house had become a night shelter for monkeys.

In 2012, then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had complained that the monkeys were ravaging his home-grown pumpkins.

“Pranabbabu had jokingly suggested that more fruit trees be planted on Delhi’s outskirts so that the monkeys didn’t feel the urge to visit ministers’ bungalows in search of food,” an official recalled.

When then US President Barack Obama visited Delhi in 2015, officials had had a tough time sanitising the 2.5sqkm Raisina Hill from the “security threat” posed by the monkeys.

Alongside the heavily armed anti-terrorist commandos, trained monkey-catchers had to be deployed in the jungles outside the President’s suite at ITC Maurya.

A Congress MP welcomed the advisory, saying it was long due.

“It’s good the Lok Sabha secretariat has finally decided to address the monkey baat,” he quipped, taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann ki Baat radio programme.