CHANDIGARH: More than 8,000 patients come to the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI) every day. What do you do then when you have a campus that is teeming with monkeys, suspicious of strangers?
In India, the age-old practice is to employ a madari, a langur-trainer. The idea is that langurs, which are more possessive of its territory, would chase away the more common, Macaca mulatta that have become increasingly bold in human habitats. The catch though is the fact that according to the Prevention of Cruelty Animals Act,1960, langurs are protected species and keeping them is a crime.
After years of dealing with the menace, according to the PGI officials, the Institute of national repute managed to convey to Animal Welfare Board of India and various other committees, the urgency of the situation and get permission to hire langurs to keep the monkeys at bay at the institute.
“About eight years ago, a petition was filed in the high court for hiring langur keepers here. We presented our problems and the court allowed us to hire langur keepers. We had submitted a compliance report on this,” said PC Sharma, chief security officer of PGI.
But the simian menace in the PGI refuses to go away despite hiring two langur keepers in the last decade. Though the monkey menace has reduced significantly with langurs around, the monkeys find some or the other way to enter the hospital. “These animals are smart. The langurs are on the campus between 9 am and 5 pm. Guess what, the monkeys come after they leave and make a menace of themselves,” said a security official.
Now the institute is facing yet another problem: Finding trained langur keepers has become harder, as the profession is deemed illegal these days. Most of them come from Rajasthan. In PGI, every two years or so, the contracts of the langur keepers are renewed. Recently, the institute has floated a tender for hiring langur keepers. According to PGI, the ones previously employed demand more salary. “Over the years, we have increased it from Rs 14,000 to Rs 21,000, a month. However, it’s not easy to find these langur keepers and tenders have been floated repeatedly,” said Sharma.
It is believed that the monkeys come from the forest area nearby. The easy availability of food is a big draw for them, agreed Sharma. And now with langur keepers at such short supply, it is not clear how the institute proposes to tackle this problem.