Thousands of monkeys across the city continue to make life hell in urban Agra. Despite regular incidents of monkey bites, the district authorities have been dragging their feet on implementing the decisions taken in the past to contain the simian menace.
“This is a problem in the whole of Braj Mandal. Vrindavan monkeys have drawn international attention. The local bodies had made plans to sterilise the monkeys, but the project was given up. Now thousands of monkeys in Vrindavan, Mathura, Goverdhan, Barsana and Gokul have become such a nuisance for the pilgrims that politicians are finding it hard to respond,” said Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of the Friends of Vrindavan.
After the simian menace that remains largely unaddressed, a new challenge to urban centres now comes from the bovine nuisance, thanks to drastic restrictions on cow slaughter.
“So many people have been injured by rampaging bulls and buffaloes. The Supreme Court of India had directed the local authorities to shift the dairies and stop the movement of cattle on the roads. Thousands of cows and buffaloes jam traffic as they cross over to river Yamuna for their daily baths. Everywhere you see heaps of cow dung,” said Rajiv Gupta, President, Lok Swar, an NGO.
The lanes are full of stray animals — dogs, monkeys and cows while bulls have been attacking tourists outside the Taj Mahal and Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra.
“The Agra Municipal Corporation is supposed to capture these animals and house them in enclosures, but they are not at all serious about the matter,” said senior citizen Sudhir Gupta, a resident of Vijay Nagar Colony.
“Our colony is daily visited by dozens of cows and bulls. This is in addition to monkeys and dogs. It has become dangerous to go out for a walk these days. Any time anyone can be attacked by stray animals,” Gupta added.
Till some years ago, only the subzi mandis attracted these animals, but now they are all over the place.
“The monkeys especially target women and children. For years we have not had the courage to climb our terrace, as hordes of monkeys relax and play antics there,” said Meera Gupta, a homemaker.
Belanganj shopkeeper Rakesh said, “In many cases, hungry cows consume polythene, leather cuttings and other waste material, and when they are in agony they go berserk, attacking anyone who comes in their way. We can do nothing.”
The faithfuls feed bananas to the monkeys and green leaves to the cows on the Yamuna Kinara road early in the morning. Later these animals enter the busy market places and start attacking people, said temple priest Nandan Shrotriya.
A municipal official said, “Where can we keep these animals and who will feed them? The gaushalas are already full. As for the monkeys, there are legal restrictions on capturing them and releasing them in the wild. The monkeys can not be transported anywhere. All plans to relocate them have failed. In many cases they return.”
For want of food, these animals loiter around the garbage dumping sites.
“The Taj city faces an unprecedented bovine, simian and canine menace. The roads are not safe. Animals compete with humans to race through to their destinations. In the process there are so many accidents. The officials of the Agra Municipal Corporation and Mayor Navin Jain had promised action three years ago, but now everyone is busy with the elections,” said Mukesh Jain, a social activist who’s also the convener of the Satyamev Jayate Trust, which had taken the initiative to transport monkeys at its own cost to forests near Chitrakoot, but animal rights activists had raised objections. The project had to be abandoned.
Villagers no longer support or feed cows that go barren. The bulls are chased away towards cities. The grim question is who will feed these animals and for how long?