The Irish Times story

May 6, 1996, CITY EDITION

Rat killer Mukadam gets Pounds 1 

for every 25 bandicoots he kills

ARMED with a wooden club and a torch, Ramesh Mukadam goes rat hunting

every night. He hunts his prey in narrow, stinking alleyways infested with

millions of rodents in the western Indian city of Bombay, writes Rahul


	He wears no shoes as he slinks through piles of garbage and along walls of

godowns (warehouses) in the city's southern suburbs.

	He fears he may disturb the vicious bandicoots, grown enormously fat,

feeding off tonnes of rubbish thrown daily into the streets.

	After an eight hour shift chasing and clubbing these bandicoots to death,

Mukadam, a veteran of Bombay's sewers and refuse heaps, turns in the

expected average of 25 rats to his employers, the Bombay Municipal

Corporation (BMC). In exchange he gets 55 rupees or Pounds 1.

	Whenever Mukadam is unable to make up his nightly quota, he, "borrows" the

shortfall from one of 85 fellow Night Rat Killers - or NRK's - with a

bigger bag.

	"Even now when I fail to strike a rat dead at the first blow, it attacks,

viciously sinking its teeth into me," says Mukadam.

	Being a casual employee he is not entitled to sick leave and after years of

honing his skills is wary of absenting himself, afraid of being replaced by

scores wanting to become NRK's.

	Unemployment in Bombay, India's financial capital and most expensive city

with a constantly expanding population, of over 20 million, is high.

	According to municipal officials over 20,000 people, 40 per cent of whom

are graduates, recently applied for 71 vacancies as NRKs.

	The rat killers are often exposed to infection. They have to take their

share of dead and bleeding rats home since the municipal offices where they

deposit their nightly catch do not open till late in the morning.

	Bombay's municipal corporation has employed rat killers for decades but

segregated them into two categories - 137 permanent staff who work the day

shift and 85 Night Rat Killers.

	The permanent staff work in relatively safe conditions but the NRKs take

the risks and are considered more "productive" simply because they have to

work harder to achieve a fixed target. Otherwise they face dismissal.


The Independent (London) story

November 14, 1996, Thursday

Citizens mass to overthrow king rat


The invitation was hard to ignore. The fax from the Peking Patriotic

Sanitation Campaign Committee welcomed observers to view the city's "mass

rat-killing activity". As it was official rat-killing week in Peking, an

upstanding citizen knew where duty lay.

	Participants gathered early yesterday with Zhang Xizeng, vice-director of

the committee; he was on hand to explain the finer points of rat

extermination. He did not have statistics on the rat population of Peking

because "rats don't have to register like Chinese people do", but the

city's "rat density" was below 1 per cent. This meant if one placed 100

traps for 24 hours, one rat would be caught, he explained.

	Peking's citizens have been mobilized against their rodent foes. In East

District, there have been public viewings of the propaganda videotape, Rat

Killing in Chinese Cities, and leaders of work units and enterprises have

signed a "1996 winter rat-killing affidavit".

	An inspection of 436 work units, 120 neighbourhood committees, and 12,311

rooms found the local rat density at a worrying 9.43 per cent. So, like

everywhere across Peking, teams have been out in force, laying poison and

traps at all the rats' favourite haunts - street markets, grocery stores,

food-processing factories and sewers. Some 100 tons of rat poison will be

laid in the city this week.

	Communist China has a tradition of mass campaigns against small creatures.

In the Forties, China's four "demons" were deemed to be the rat, sparrow,

fly and mosquito. The most destructive mission was the slaughter of

sparrows in 1958, at the start of the disastrous Great Leap Forward.

	Chairman Mao ordered the country's population to strike up a cacophony of

sound, beating cymbals and saucepans, to keep the birds from settling.

Exhausted, the sparrows fell dead to the ground. Mao had blamed the

sparrows for eating grain, but ignored the fact that they mostly ate flies

and grubs. The result was a plague of insects.

	These days the cockroach has replaced the sparrow in the "demons" line- up.

In recent mass campaigns, material as well as patriotic incentives are

employed. Earlier this year in Shenzhen, the booming economic zone next to

Hong Kong, the authorities offered a 5 yuan (40p) reward for every rat-tail

handed in. Professional rat-catching gangs set themselves up, and were soon

feuding over the bounties. With rat-like cunning, it did not take long

before dead rats were being shipped from the countryside into the city in

order to claim the rewards. In the north-east city of Shenyang this spring,

400,000 rats were wiped out with an offer of just 1 yuan per tail.

	This year's anti-rat campaign in Peking is "large-scale" compared to the

city's recent annual blitzes, but Mr Zhang said that no money was on

offer."It is not because the density of rats increases dramatically. It is

because during the last two years, a lot of old buildings were knocked

down, and this destroyed the habitat of the rats so they have no place to


	Decisive action is needed because, Mr Zhang said, we are at the point in a

10-year cycle when rats are breeding heavily.

	At the Liangshifa grocery store, a red and yellow banner hung across the

entrance yesterday read "Everybody participate in killing rats". Inside the

shop, an assistant said that the poison had been mixed with milk powder,

apples and sausage "so it is more delicious for the rats".