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Monday, September 24, 2018

The fraught urban life

by Proloy Bagchi (writer), Idgah Hills, Bhopal, May 17, 2018

Urban life in India is becoming risky for infants and elderly as monkeys and dogs use it as free range

Our Life, Our Times :: 18 :: Fraught urban life

The Delhi High Court recently asked the Delhi Government about their plans to deal with the monkey menace in the metropolis. The matter was last heard sometime in January last but so far no progress has been achieved. The Capital seems to have been overrun by monkeys and people are afraid of them as the simians have become aggressive and frequently chase elderly people or even bite them.

Things have become so alarming that a two judge Bench of the High Court said that the matter of contraception of monkeys cannot brook any delay. On the other hand the Environment Ministry briefed the Court that it would take seven more years to drive out the monkeys. The Court gave a glib reposte to it by saying that by that time they would all be driven out of Lutyen’s Delhi.

The Court’s reposte came when the Environment Ministry deposed before it that it was waiting for release of funds for research on immune-contraception and that it would take another seven years after funds are allotted to research and develop the vaccine. The Court did not like it and said some African countries have a vaccine and we are still talking of funds to develop one. It said that the Government should think of importing the vaccine in view of the desperate situation caused by the exploding population of monkeys in the capital.

It seems Asola sanctuary near Delhi where the city’s monkeys are relocated is now spilling over and they frequently raid neighbouring colonies and farm houses

While Delhi is dealing with monkey menace we in Bhopal are faced up with the stray dog menace. A recent report in the local press lamented deaths due to rabies in the city. Apparently two deaths occurred within twenty days of one another. The newspaper criticized the local authorities since as much as Rs. 2 billion have been spent to deal with the menace of stray dogs but there has been no respite from it.

This is largely true. The locals have to face the menace on a daily basis. Groups of a couple of dozen of these free ranging dogs move around or lie around on the streets and in the markets oblivious of the traffic that passes by. At night they become active and bark all through the dark hours picking up fights. In case a motor bike came their way they give it a hell-for-leather chase. They have been known to have attacked old women and infants.

They have multiplied, shall we say, exponentially as stray dogs cannot now be liquidated, thanks to Mrs. Maneka Gandhi. She comes down heavily on any municipality that kills stray dogs. That would be well and good as also kind only if she provided adequate resources – financial and technical – to keep the population under control. Since the staff for sterilisation is insufficient to deal with the enormity of the problem the numbers of stray dogs have been merrily increasing. While the human population of Bhopal is reported to be around 20 lakhs there are 2 or three lakh stray dogs – that is, for every 10 humans there is one or more stray dog.

While Hindus in general have a soft corner for monkeys, considering them, as they do, as representative of the Monkey God Hanuman, the dogs are a different kettle of fish. Mrs Maneka Gandhi’s express orders prohibit killing of stray dogs. No wonder such as they are, stray dogs are making merry in urban India attacking all and sundry. Kerala reportedly had the worst of it as several infants were picked up, taken away and eaten up by these street bullies.

Quite surprisingly, one sees reports every other day of a tiger being poached. It is a protected animal and yet it is killed for money and many a times the perpetrators of the crimes are not even apprehended. Likewise another protected animal that has had the wrong end of the stick is the leopard. Because of shrinking habitatat poor fellows have to come looking for prey close into urban areas and get brutally killed. The irony is that while we are not able to protect a rare animal in the wild we are protecting hundreds of thousands of those which, in fact, need not be protected as there are far too many of them. Trust this country for all the decisions that are generally topsy-turvy.

If nothing drastic is done in a jiffy urban India will soon become a huge and happy hunting ground for of free ranging dogs and simians.



About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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