Struggling to find people willing to work as monkey catchers, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has decided to hire them on contract.
At present, the civic agency has only one staff for catching and relocating hundreds of monkeys roaming in 104 wards. Due to manpower shortage, it could catch only 15 monkeys in the last one year, said an SDMC official.
Now, the corporation proposes to pay them a regular salary, even if they don’t catch any monkey. So far, SDMC pays Rs1,200 for catching and relocation of one monkey.
“We are waiting for the financial approval and possibly by next week we will start the tendering process for hiring monkey catchers at a monthly salary of ₹18,000. That’s the last thing we can do to attract monkey catchers,” said a senior SDMC official.
For the past three years, the corporation has written letters to the state governments asking for help in procuring services of monkey catchers. “We wrote to different states corporations such as Haryana, UP, HP and Andhra Pradesh for providing monkey catchers but failed to get any reply,” said RBS Tyagi, director veterinary department, SDMC.
According to him, there are multiple reasons responsible for existing shortage of workforce.
“The monkeys are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. They are looked after by the wildlife department after they’re relocated at the Asola Bhatti Mines Sanctuary. So ideally it should be the department’s responsibility to catch the monkeys,” said Tyagi.
The SDMC claimed it shared the facts with the wildlife department and but didn’t get any reply. “Except for Rajasthan, no other state corporations are catching monkeys,” said a senior SDMC official.
SDMC will soon file an affidavit in the Delhi high court, asking that the responsibility of catching and relocating monkeys be shifted to the Delhi government’s wildlife department.
Officials said that the monkeys that are relocated to the forest of Asola Bhatti mines are coming back to the residential areas in search of food. “We have received complaints from neighbouring schools, dispensaries and residential areas about simians coming in groups to steal food from people’s houses and attack them. But we are helpless,” said a senior official.
Besides, the animal lovers also add to the problem by filing police complaints against corporations and monkey catchers when the simians are caught in ones and twos, not troops.
“Such an incident happened in Nizamuddin and our staff was harassed unnecessarily. In fact, it is a major reason why monkey catchers don’t want to work in Delhi,” said an official.