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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Monkey-catcher with a mission

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

The tens of thousands of Indian police and paramilitaries charged with ensuring that Independence Day celebrations go as planned in Delhi are being joined by an unusual recruit.

A monkey-catcher has been hired by the agencies responsible for the security of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Nand Lal outside the Red Fort
Mr Lal has many years of monkey-catching experience
The Red Fort in Delhi, from where Mr Vajpayee is due to give his address on Friday, is infested with monkeys.

And, not wanting to take any risks, the security agencies have taken on Nand Lal, 50, who has two decades of monkey-catching experience to rid the area of the animal.

Mr Lal sees his new role to protect the prime minister as the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I catch monkeys by offering them peanuts and grapes and I have caught almost all the monkeys in the Red Fort," said Mr Lal.

He says he either catches the animal using his bare hands or lures them into a cage by throwing goodies.

He says he gets about $4 for each monkey caught.

"At times, I get only one monkey but when the going is good, I end up netting 10 in a day," he said.

Sacred symbol

A police officer says the monkey's ability to effortlessly swing from one building to another has forced them to think of the security implications - if an important person is in the vicinity.

Saeed Khan and his pet langur
Mr Khan says his langur is a good friend
The concern is also shared by the prime minister's office.

Joining Mr Lal, will be nearly 60,000 policemen and 900 commandos during the address. Security has also been tightened at railway stations and airports.

Monkeys are a nuisance in other parts of the capital.

Monkey-catcher Saeed Khan uses his pet langur - a big monkey - to scare away smaller monkeys at the parliament and the president's house

"We brought it from the western city of Jaipur and it has become a very good friend of mine," Mr Khan told BBC News Online.

Monkeys are a sacred symbol in India's majority Hindu community.

Those caught are sent to animal homes on the outskirts of the capital, officials say.

Animal right activists say Delhi's ever increasing human population is as much a problem for the monkeys, as the monkeys are for humans.

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