In name of Hanuman, Delhiites still feed monkeys!

June 18th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) When it comes to feeding monkeys, Delhi residents would rather do it hands-on, perhaps in the hope of being blessed by monkey god Hanuman! Or so the capital’s civic agencies are discovering while trying to implement a court order. Special centres set up near two Hanuman temples by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to collect feed for the animals are going empty.

While many devotees say they don’t know about these collection boxes - near the Hanuman temples at Connaught Place and Yamuna Bazar - the civic agencies claim people prefer to feed the monkeys personally instead of depositing food in the boxes.

“We have fined hundreds of people who have been caught feeding monkeys in public places. But frankly, this campaign of collection centres has not been a success,” MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur told IANS.

“Religious sentiment is the biggest challenge in this campaign.”

Hanuman is revered by many Hindus as a symbol of strength and devotion. And many people believe by feeding monkeys, they are doing a service to the monkey god.

Lalu Maharaj, the head priest of the Hanuman temple in Connaught Place, agreed: “People want to feed the monkeys themselves. It is a religious sentiment.”

The collection centres were set up a year ago after the Delhi High Court banned the public feeding of monkeys as the practice was causing the animals to congregate in hordes, often resulting in ferocious attacks on people.

Such simian incidents led to nearly 25 people being injured last year. A civic official even died after falling from his terrace following an attack by monkeys.

The figure of simians on the prowl in the capital ranges from 10,000 to 20,000. Many of the monkeys have been translocated to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary on the outskirts of the capital.

The collection centres are put up every Tuesday and Saturday when devotees throng the Hanuman temples. The feed is supposed to be collected by the NDMC and the MCD and transported to the sanctuary.

But they have not received a good response.

People, however, say the collection boxes are kept in obscure corners of the temples. Prakash Kumar, who was at the Connaught Place temple to offer prayers on a Saturday, had no idea about the collection centre.

“I didn’t know that such a collection box existed. In fact, I still see people feeding monkeys in my area in east Delhi,” Kumar told IANS.

MCD’s Mathur admitted that the campaign had not been well advertised and said they would have to work towards educating the masses about it.

In the Connaught Place area, the collection box lies in an unnoticed corner on the temple premises, with a dilapidated board saying people can deposit food for monkeys inside.

Sarita Jha, another worshipper, said she had “heard somewhere” about the box but didn’t know where it was.

“I hardly see any monkeys around the Hanuman mandir (temple) these days. Once people don’t see the monkeys, they don’t give the feed…and in any case it is out of reverence to Lord Hanuman that people want to feed the monkeys themselves. Depositing the feed in a box is not what many would like,” she said.

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