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 Bedi. 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 live." 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".