Monkeys invade tea estate in eastern India

Calcutta - Hundreds of hungry monkeys have invaded a sprawling tea garden in eastern India, chasing petrified workers and damaging machinery, the estate manager said on Tuesday.

More than 200 monkeys from a nearby forest have made the estate in the tea-rich Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal their new home, forcing 1 700 workers to lock doors and move in groups while plucking tea leaves.

"It's really worrying. Workers are terrified as monkeys are even going into the creche of the estate and snatching food from their children," Shantilal Pandya, the garden's general manager, said.

The monkeys have injured one person and hit output at the garden, which produces around 1,1 million kilograms of tea a year.

Pandya said the garden's management was hesitant to use force to evict the monkeys as many workers revere the Hindu monkey-god, Hanuman.

"We cannot hurt the monkeys because of the sentiments of the labour force. We have asked forest officials and local environmentalists to help solve this monkey crisis."

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