Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

farmer Ra­jesh Bisht says he does not be­lieve in the pop­u­lar IMACHALPRADESH Hindi proverb Ban­dar kya jaane adrak ka swad (What does a mon­key know about gin­ger’s taste) as he stands in his gin­ger plan­ta­tion at 4 AM to guard against wild mon­keys.March­ing through the slush in his leech-in­fested field on a cold July morn­ing,the res­i­dent from Chaukha vil­lage in Sir­maur dis­trict says farm­ers take turns to guard against wild an­i­mals.

At 10 AM,Ramesh Verma,a re­tired an­i­mal hus­bandry of­fi­cial who now does farming in Chaukha vil­lage, hur­ries from his farm to at­tend a meet­ing called at the sarpanch’s res­i­dence to ad­dress the is­sue of mon­key men­ace. Mon­keys had de­stroyed his en­tire corn plan­ta­tion last year. “I had in­vested 50,000 to plant corn on my 1.2-hectare (ha) farm. Mon­keys com­pletely de­stroyed it,” he says.Iron­i­cally,the draw­ing room where the meet­ing is con­vened has a big Hanu­man cal­en­dar on its wall.“We wor­ship Hanu­man but th­ese mon­keys are not his de­scen­dants. They be­long to the evil mon­key king Bali who was slain by Lord Ram,”clar­i­fies Chaukha’s sarpanch Man­dakini Devi.Verma says that liveli­hood is more im­por­tant than re­li­gious be­liefs. “Our an­ces­tors warned us that the day mon­keys start raid­ing crops, you know apoc­a­lypse has ar­rived,”he says.

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