MUMBAI: The Covid-19 pandemic has hit a crucial public health exercise to control the population of rats spreading leptospirosis in Mumbai.
There was a 60% drop in the number of rats killed in 2020 (1.98 lakh) compared to 2019 (4.78 lakh). The numbers have increased in 2021 (3.2 lakh), and BMC Pesticides Officer Rajan Naringekar is confident of breaking the 2019 mark this year.

Rats are among the main culprits of leptospirosis. Infectious disease specialist Dr Mala Kaneria from BMC run Nair Hospital in Central Mumbai said it is important to control the threat of rats in the city if the incidence of the disease is to be reduced. leptospirosis.
But the pandemic wasn’t the only problem with controlling the city’s rat menace.
A closer examination of data collected from BMC using RTI by Chetan Kothari in South Mumbai showed that rat culling has not only become expensive year on year, but BMC n haven’t been able to find enough night rat killers.
“The BMC spent Rs 4.07 crore to kill a record number of rats in 2019. The following year, despite a 60% drop, it spent Rs 3.9 crore in payment for rat killings,” said said Kothari. In 2021, the BMC shelled out Rs 5.41 crore.
A senior civic public health official said the increase in payment is because the BMC is paying Rs. 20 per dead rat to ensure every night rat killer is paid minimum wage.
There is more. Just before the start of the pandemic, the BMC abolished the post of night rat killers, preferring to outsource the “night post” via associations involved in sanitation work.
Currently, the BMC Pest Control Department has 137 ratters on its payroll who trap or facilitate the trapping of rats during the day. Night rat killers are employed and paid by private associations.
But the nightly cull target of 100 rats per night is not easy to achieve. “As a result, the BMC was only able to establish links with associations in 12 neighborhoods while the other 12 were not killed at night,” said an official who did not wish to be identified.
When questioned, Naringekar said the BMC had the will and the budget, but no association had expressed interest in a night-killing operation in the remaining 12 wards.
The RTI data clearly shows that civic neighborhoods with night rat killers have higher murders. For example, night rat killers in M-West Ward managed to kill 33,539 rats in 2021, while the corresponding figure in Ward B, which has no night rat killers, had 1,435 rats killed.
Kothari said: “In 2013 I had used RTI to discover that there were 113 rat catchers and 31 night rat killers working with the BMC. Although the town’s population and infrastructure has grown significantly since then and may have compounded the rat threat, the BMC infrastructure to kill the rats has not kept pace.”