By Vikram Jit Singh
Langurs have been banned for deployment to scare off monkeys that trouble city residents but their illegal use continues for the PGIMER and the Sector 26 showrooms on Madhya Marg by private handlers, who are being paid a monthly sum.
Two langurs, named `Manu' and `Mehak', are deployed by their handler, Ali Mohammad, at the PGIMER. The langurs are kept hidden from public gaze as these are tied to trees behind the new eye OPD block. The langurs remain here 24 hours. The other langur, `Udham', is tied to a tree bang opposite the main gate of the Sector 26 police station. Udham's handler, Ramzan, said the "langur was guarding against monkeys that invade the Sector 26 showroom of a top Punjab bureaucrat." Ramzan admitted, though, that keeping langurs "had been restricted by law". On the other hand, Ali Mohammad shows a letter written by the senior administrative officer of the PGIMER on January 18, 2014. The letter states that Ali Mohammad has been paid the wages of Rs. 18,000 for his services as a "langoor contractor" for December 2013.
UT chief wildlife warden Santosh Kumar told HT Chandigarh: "Langurs cannot be kept for such purposes as this use has been banned by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of the union ministry of environment and forests. Earlier, langurs were deployed under contract to the UT forests and wildlife department. Langurs did help scare away monkeys. We now have men, who scare away monkeys by aping the sounds of the langurs, but this has a limited effect as monkeys are very clever and soon realise what is going on."
A sustained campaign by People for Animals, Chandigarh, and Naresh Kadyan of the Indian Peoples for Animals resulted in the ban on using langurs on the grounds that it constituted cruelty to the langur, which is covered under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. "While langurs have been banned by the NGO campaign, no alternative solution is offered to prevent the attacks on people and damage to property. A solution must be found which is acceptable to society at large. The langurs that we maintained were kept under very good care. Animal enthusiasts do not realise how difficult it is to tackle monkeys. They are so clever they evade capture as they start recognising the teams. The diet of monkeys has changed as they prefer easily available urban leftovers, which are accessed because of open dustbins. People also do not stop from feeding monkeys," said Kumar.