The Mathura district administration has decided to set up a monkey rescue centre here to overcome the pestering simian menace in the religious tourism belt of Mathura-Vrindavan, an official said. "In Chaumuhan block, 25 acres of land has been transferred to the Forest department for preliminary work," Chief Executive Officer of the Braj Tirth Vikas Parishad Nagendra Pratap said after briefing reporters following a day-long seminar held at Pandit Deen Dayal Veterinary University in Mathura on Monday.
The district magistrate mentioned that the land has been transferred to the Forest department and also registered in revenue records, Pratap said. A decision has also been taken to shift ailing monkeys to the rescue centre for their rehabilitation, he said. District Forest Officer Mukesh Sharma said noted experts of animal husbandry have been asked to consider the pros and cons of undertaking a tubectomy/vasectomy of monkeys. He said that after catching the simians, they would be medically examined and if need be segregated, based on their illness, to be taken for rehabilitation.
Sharma said a draft proposal will be prepared and then sent for clearance from the Union government. The move to tackle the long-standing issue is a brainchild of Mathura MP Hema Malini. During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, Malini had promised Brijwasis, as the locals are called, of getting rid of the monkey menace. She had mooted the idea of setting up a "monkey safari" but nothing was done till now in her second term as an MP.
Talking to PTI on Monday over phone, the actor-turned-parliamentarian said, "Once the draft proposal is prepared, I will raise the issue in Parliament. This is a serious subject and needs to be tackled at the national level."
The Lok Sabha member, who was not present for the seminar, said the issue had to be dealt with in a humane way as far as possible. She said the monkey menace needs to be tackled after an enumeration by district authorities revealed that there are 21,707 simians in the belt. Yet, she clarified that sterilisation was not a long-term solution after discussing the issue with fellow BJP MP Maneka Gandhi, who advised against the move.
The 71-year-old said, "This is a religious and cultural issue. Opinions from many stakeholders have to be taken into consideration for which this seminar would provide the solutions."
The monkeys create trouble for the locals as well as the pilgrims by snatching their spectacles, purses and packets of snacks etc. The problem is very acute in Vrindavan and Mathura in areas including Barsana, Gokul and Govardhan close to temple areas.
During a visit few years ago, former president Pranab Mukerjee had to be taken up to Banke Bihari temple in a closed car to escape the simians while a former Mathura district magistrate lost her spectacles while coming out of the temple. Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Agra Zone, K Praveen Rao told PTI, "Until now, no concerted efforts have been made to resolve the issue. Now, the time has come to look at both short-term and long-term solutions." The officer said one of the solutions that had been agreed upon was to catch hold of and release 2,000 monkeys in Bah area of Chambal region.
DFO Sharma said, "If the proposed solutions turns out to be successful, the model would then be coined as 'Mathura Model'. It would be taken up across Uttar Pradesh and also in other parts of the country to eliminate the monkey menace."
Noted wildlife expert and scientists including representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India, IVRI Izatnagar, Veterinary University Jabalpur, Deen Dayal Veterinary University Mathura, Wildlife SOS, Jim Corbett Natonal Park attended the seminar.