Violent monkeys drive villagers in Satara indoors

Nov 10, 2011, 11:51 IST | Kaumudi Gurjar

After aggressive attacks by Hanuman Langurs on people of Mhasave, 1,500 residents of village in Satara district dare not step out of their homes as even police and forest department say they can't help them.

People living in Mhasave village in Satara district on NH-4 have a difficult monkey on their back; quite literally. So grave is the problem that the villagers even fear to venture out of their homes; and those responsible for this state of affairs are not nocturnal goons or dacoits, but a herd of aggressive Hanuman langurs.

The villagers said they have been left in the lurch as the police have made it clear that no case of offence could be registered against monkeys for attacking humans. On the other hand, the Forest Department too has turned them away saying it lacked funds to catch monkeys.

Animal trouble: The Forest Department has asked the villagers to chip
in and hire monkey catchers to curb the menace. Representation pic

As a result, the 1,500-odd villagers do not even step out of their homes after three sustained injuries in attacks by the monkeys recently. Even schoolchildren have stopped attending classes after two kids and a teacher were attacked by the monkeys (see box).

MiD DAY spoke to a woman who sustained severe injuries on her face and lost four teeth when a monkey caught her from behind and banged her head on the ground. "Despite several requests, the Forest Department has done nothing. Now with this monkey menace, we are even scared to step out of our homes," said 65-year-old Kusum Sopan Sonmale, a daily wages labourer.

Sarpanch Ramesh Shelar said the monkeys tried to lift his three-year-old son Soham a month go. "It was only after bystanders intervened did the monkeys bolt away," said Shelar. Another woman was also injured in a similar attack. Shelar said the police had expressed helplessness when the attack on Sonmale was reported to them. "We took Sonmale to the Satara taluka police on November 1. They said it did not fall under their jurisdiction and directed us to the Forest Department."

Police Inspector Shreerang Lange confirmed the incident. Rajendra Kumbhar, a villager and human rights activist, alleged laxity and procrastination by the Forest Department officials despite sustained follow-ups. "They have asked us to chip in and hire monkey catchers and help them," said Kumbhar. A forest guard who visited Mhasave last morning cited lack of funds as the reason for inaction. A former Indian Forest Service officer said that barely 1 per cent of the state's annual budget was allocated to the Forest Department.

Prabhakar Kukdolkar, former assistant conservator of forest, said: "Hanuman Langur is a wild animal and is categorised under Schedule II (Part I) of the Indian wildlife. The animal is not endangered. The district forest officer is authorised to act in case of a man-animal conflict near residential areas."

Kukdolkar said some people have the habit of feeding monkeys near temples and other places, which aggravates the problem. "As a result, langurs tend to colonise near villages where there is adequate supply of food and water," he said. Deputy Range Forest Officer of Satara Division S B Shelke refused to comment on the issue when contacted.

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