An entire section of Rail Bhawan officials in New Delhi had to be quarantined after a man deputed to chase away monkeys in its premises tested positive for the coronavirus.
This person, who would deploy his pet langoor (baboon) to scare off the Railway Ministry’s resident rhesus monkey population, had been visiting the premises till May 4, senior ministry officials have found.
Tracing his movement in the ministry premises, the Railway Board found that he was in some form of cursory contact with officials in the General Branch. The employees of that branch will now be at home in quarantine and monitor themselves till May 18 and an additional day, as a matter of caution, ministry sources said.
“Fortunately, we were already observing health protocols, so people would have been wearing masks and keeping a distance from each other. So we don’t really think anyone would have contracted the disease from the langoor guy, but we are not taking chances,” a senior railway ministry official said. “The man would have gone to many other places so all that is being traced.”
The five-storey Rail Bhawan premises on Raisina Road in New Delhi is already undergoing thorough sanitisation after an orderly working in the Railway Protection Force office tested positive. He had been coming to the office till May 6. The building was sealed on Thursday and Friday for the job.
The population of rhesus monkeys in Lutyens Delhi has long been a headache for the government, especially since almost all ministry premises located there are teeming with monkeys.
Just to carry on with daily business, the ministries employ contractors who use langoors to drive off other primates.
The monkeys in Rail Bhawan have often caught unsuspecting officials off-guard, appearing in corridors, balconies, canteens, office windows et al.
Shastri Bhawan, too, is notorious for housing a huge horde of monkeys for years. Government officials attending the offices have often complained of monkeys snatching bags and other issues.
The New Delhi Municipal Council, which services the Lutyens zone, has over the years spent lakhs rupees to employ langoor handlers and other means to fix what is commonly known as “monkey menace”.