NEW DELHI, India. In this, the capital city of India, there seems to be a government office on every corner. “We inherited our love of bureaucracy from the British,” says Atal Bihari, an Undersecretary to the Assistant Commissioner of Common Victualler Registration. “Without government, many people would have to find productive work in the private sector, which is very unpleasant.”
But the quiet calm that the slow pace of the Indian bureaucracy provides to its employees has been shattered recently as marauding monkeys have taken over government buildings, in one case causing the death of an elected official who tried to fend off his attackers by returning their bribes. “It was sad,” says Abani Mukhurjee, a political reporter. “Perhaps we have taken the concept of ‘open government’ too far.”
So Indian officials are reaching out for help to Western nations, particularly America, where marauding monkeys have occupied government buildings on a recurring basis over the nation’s 230-year history.
“America has a rich tradition of simian politics,” says Seth Winegard of Common Cause, a non-partisan good government group. “I’d say it reached its apogee in the person of James Traficant,” the bouffant-haired Ohio Democrat who was expelled from Congress for racketeering and taking bribes, “but Larry Craig gave him a run for his money.”
Animal-rights advocates say punitive measures to keep primates out of politics ignore the real cause of increased human-monkey encounters. “The monkeys should not be blamed,” says Sonya Guptal. “Man is taking over much of their natural habitat, such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles. They have no place to go.”
Finding a solution to the monkeys in government problem is viewed as central to India’s efforts to persuade foreign businesses to invest here, creating jobs that can lift its population out of grinding poverty. “All things considered, monkeys are less efficient government clerks than humans,” according to Lowell Nordke of MKC Engineers, a design-build firm that has won several public works contracts here. “Although they eat bananas at their desks, so they don’t take a lunch break.”
Copyright 2008, Con Chapman