Mumbai: As lepto looms, no night rat killers in 12 wards | Mumbai News – Times of India


MUMBAI: The Covid-19 pandemic hit a crucial public health exercise to check the population of leptospirosis-spreading rats in Mumbai.
There was a 60% drop in the number of rats killed in 2020 (1.98 lakh) as against 2019 (4.78 lakh). The numbers increased in 2021 (3.2 lakh), and the BMC’s pesticide officer Rajan Naringekar is confident of breaching the 2019 mark this year.

Rats are among the main culprits for leptospirosis. Infectious diseases specialist Dr Mala Kaneria from BMC-run Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central, said it’s important to control the rat menace in the city if one wants to reduce the incidence of leptospirosis.
But the pandemic wasn’t the only problem with controlling the city’s rat menace.
A closer look at the data gathered from the BMC using RTI by south Mumbai’s Chetan Kothari showed rat killing has not only become expensive with each passing year, the BMC has been unable to find enough night rat killers.
“The BMC spent Rs 4.07 crore to kill a record number of rats in 2019. In the following year, despite a 60% drop, it spent Rs 3.9 crore as payment for rat killings,” said Kothari. In 2021, the BMC shelled out Rs 5.41 crore.
A senior civic public health official said increasing payment is due to the fact that the BMC pays Rs 20 per dead rat to ensure every night rat killer makes minimum wages.
There is more. Just before the pandemic began, the BMC did away with the post of night rat killers, preferring to outsource the “night shift” through associations involved in sanitation work.
At present, the BMC’s pest control department has 137 rat labourers on its payroll who trap or facilitate trapping of rats during the day-time. The night rat killers are employed and paid by private associations.
But the night killing target of 100 rats per night is not easy to achieve. “Hence, the BMC has been able to tie up with associations in only 12 wards while the remaining 12 have no night killing carried out,” said an official who didn’t want to be identified.
When asked, Naringekar said the BMC has the willingness and the budget, but no association has shown interest in night killing operation in the remaining 12 wards.
The RTI data clearly shows the civic wards with night rat killers have higher killings. For instance, the night rat killers in M-West Ward managed to kill 33,539 rats in 2021, while the corresponding figure in B Ward which doesn’t have night rat killers had 1,435 rat killings.
Kothari said, “In 2013, I had used RTI to find out that there are 113 rat labourers and 31 night rat killers working with the BMC. Although the city’s population and infrastructure has increased drastically since then and possibly worsened the rat menace, the BMC’s infrastructure to kill rats hasn’t kept pace.”

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