Rats have rights too, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) feels. So, it has written to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), asking the civic body to stop killing them. But the corporation isn’t buying. “We don’t know why they have written to us. But we haven’t stopped and will continue killing rats,” said Dr Arun Bamne, insecticide officer of BMC. He also said that the civic body is yet to reply to AWBI.
Making a killing
BMC kills rats since the British era to control spread of diseases like plague and leptospirosis in the city. “Everybody knows that rodents can cause health problems and the monsoon is around the corner. So, it is not practically possible to stop killing rats,” said Rahul Shewale, chairman of the civic body’s standing committee. He also assured that killing rats doesn’t mean an invitation to diseases. “I will write to AWBI and request them to withdraw their instructions as the city may face problems during monsoon. And I am sure that they will be able to understand Mumbai’s problem,” added Shewale.
Even city doctors feel that Mumbai would turn into a large chew toy, if the rodents continue to grow in number. Dr Naved Pathan, a general practitioner from Dadar, said, “Leptospirosis would be the most dangerous disease, spread because of rat urine. Also, rabies and other food-borne diseases may rise, as rats may pass on infections like gastro or hepatitis through edibles.”
Every year, the corporation’s insecticide department exterminates over 1.5 lakh rats in the city and suburbs, of which over 80 per cent are from the island city. There are no designated rat killers for the suburbs. “Though the rat population is more in the island city, even suburban areas are facing the same problem since the last few years. So, we have decided to recruit 90 rat killers especially for the suburbs,” said Shewale.
Legions of rats reside, and get caught and killed in South Mumbai because of the congested areas and old buildings like at Girgaum, Kalbadevi and even Colaba. The rodents come out onto the roads especially during monsoons when rainwater enters their underground holes. In 2011, the civic body’s rat killers exterminated over 2.40 lakh rats, while about 2 lakh were killed in 2010 and 1.95 lakh in 2009. In the past six years, more than 11 lakh rats have been killed in the city and suburbs. When contacted by MiD DAY, Vinod Kumar, assistant secretary of AWBI said he would look into the matter.
Approximate number of rats killed by BMC in the city and suburbs every year