Monkeys strike terror among hill farmers
SHIMLA, OCTOBER 27: The new enemy of farmers is fierce, four-legged and, to all intents and purposes, the fulcrum on which the panchayat elections will be fought by the year-end.
Less than a fortnight after 1,000 farmers took to the streets of Shimla in protest against the monkey menace in their fields, a similar demonstration took place in Solan. Reports of monkeys destroying crops have also come in from half-a-dozen other districts, including Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Kangra, Hamirpur, Mandi and Una.
According to the Gyan Vigyan Samiti, a local NGO fighting for farmers’ rights, the problem is accentuated by the Shimla Municipal Corporation’s short-term solution of catching and then deporting monkeys from the city to nearby districts.
‘‘It’s a question of survival. Either the farmers will be compelled to abandon their crops or the monkeys will have to be eliminated,’’ said local BJP MLA Rajeev Bindal, who led the farmers’ protest in Shimla.
With the monkey population in the state (excluding Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and part of Pangi in Chamba district) touching 3.25 lakh, and langoors adding another 70,000 to the simian population, a solution looks hard to come by.
‘‘There are only two options: either we sterilise the monkeys or we label them dangerous and allow farmers to shoot them,’’ said K K Gupta, chief conservator, wildlife. ‘‘Either way, we will face opposition from wildlife activists.’’
According to Gupta, a Rs 1.19-crore plan to free farmers from the perpetual problem has been submitted to the Centre. ‘‘We can only hope good sense will prevail on those opposing the move,’’ he added.