THE MONKEY ON A NATION’S BACK (1998)

Mr Bedi goes for five. See also: “India’s Marauding Monkeys” (1993); “Romeo’s Monkey Business Drives Nurses Bananas” (1994); “Monkeys Mock Democracy” (1996); and “Monkeys Go To Jail” (1997).

THE MONKEY ON A NATION’S BACK

by Rahul Bedi
The Australian
March 26, 1998

NEW DELHI: A pack of alcoholic monkeys create havoc on a daily basis in the Excise Department laboratory in New Delhi, guzzling liquor samples brought in for testing and going berserk when denied their daily drink quota.

Excise officials said that despite security, the pack of seven monkeys who have lived near the laboratory for years manage to get inside and get drunk on hundreds of liquor samples.

More than 100 police stations send moonshine seized from bootleggers to be tested at the laboratory, which also services scores of drug companies that send samples of alcohol-based substances used in medicines.

“Each monkey must have drunk hundreds of bottles by now,” a laboratory official said.

He said the monkeys became violent when unable to get a drink and moved into the office complex, ransacking and destroying everything in sight.

All attempts to deal effectively with menacing monkeys here and in several other places across India is hampered by the reverence with which they are held by Hindus, India’s majority community.

Hindu religious sentiment associates monkeys with Hanuman, the monkey god who was Lord Rama’s fearless and loyal assistant in his battle against Ravana, the evil god king of Sri Lanka .

There are thousands of Hanuman temples across India and every Tuesday is reserved for the worship of him.

Meanwhile, wildlife authorities in Patiala, a northern town in Punjab State, some 322km north of Delhi, where monkey business is rampant, have come up with a special jail for “criminal simians” who are incarcerated for varying periods before being declared “fit” enough to be “released” back into society.

There are an estimated 50,000 monkeys in Punjab, almost all wild, the largest number being in Patiala district. Their numbers have increased after monkey exports were banned in the late 1980s.

Led by ringleaders, usually the biggest and most vicious of the pack, monkey gangs chalk out their patch in crowded neighbourhoods across the State and terrorise everyone around.

Monkeys also menace Delhi’s corridors of power and spread mayhem on the campus of the nearby All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s flagship research institution.

Officials walk warily down passageways in the north and south blocks of the Indian government buildings — housing, among others, the prime minister’s office — looking apprehensively over their shoulders for fear of being set upon by marauding monkeys hiding in niches.

The animals chase doctors and nurses at the Institute of Medical Sciences and patients in post-operative wards sometimes surface from anaesthesia only to be greeted by grinning monkeys in their beds.

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