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Haunted by monkeys, Almora residents hit streets

Residents launched a fortnight long protest Wednesday and warned that they will intensify the stir, even go for a fast-unto-death, if steps were not taken to end the simian menace

dehradun Updated: Nov 22, 2017 19:51 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand news,Monkey menace,Simian trouble
At least 10 cases of monkey-bite incidents, locals claimed, are reported at the district hospital every day and another 10 go unnoticedives(HT File)

More than 200 people came out onto the streets in Almora on Wednesday not for rights, employment, or over migration and health issues, but to show their rage over monkey menace.

Many organisations joined the protest, demanding a solution to the simian problem. The protest will end on December 6 if the state government announces a substantive plan to deal with the conflict, otherwise the organisations said they would intensify the stir, even going for a fast-unto-death.

“The (forest) department claims it is helpless. Monkeys have made our lives hell; they have become a routine problem, so much so that we can’t even hang our clothes. They steal them,” Pushpa Sati, secretary of an Amora-based women welfare organisation, told Hindustan Times over the phone.

At the fortnight long protest that began Wednesday. (HT Photo)

Situated about 350km from Dehradun, Almora city and over two dozen adjoining villages reel under the monkey menace. At least 10 cases of monkey-bite incidents, locals claimed, are reported at the district hospital every day and another 10 go unnoticed. Children can’t walk to their schools alone and woman can’t sit in sunshine. Hordes of monkeys attack houses, damage property and take away food items, they said.

Some people said the forest department’s catch-and-release strategy on monkeys has backfired. “Officials used to catch monkeys from other places and release them here. Now, their population has grown immensely. And the locals are victims,” said Sudhir Rawat of Almora.

Forest officials claim lack of funds led to suspension of construction of rescue centres at Almora and Ranibagh (Nainital) for sterilisation of simians. “We don’t have funds to resume construction of Almora rescue centre,” chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati said.

Nearly 500 monkeys have been operated in the last two years at the lone sterilisation centre at Chidiapur in Haridwar. The exercise later stopped during rainy seasons and due to lack of funds. The frequency of surgeries was also less; officials blame it on lack of veterinarians and funds.

“After initial payments by the Congress government, no further funds have been released for the centre because of which sterilisation has been put on back burner,” a forest officer said.

A few days ago, a monkey pushed a girl in Nainital, resulting in her death. In 2015, a PIL (public interest litigation) was filed in the Nainital High Court after monkeys attacked students.

Meanwhile, fear of leopard attacks has gripped people in Almora and Bageshwar districts, putting officials on their toes. Cages have been put up in Bageshwar, but to no avail.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 19:50 IST