August 12: About 26 people in Mumbai and nearby Thane died recently due to a strange fever. Initially the doctors in Mumbai were unsure which disease had afflicted these people, because no tests were conducted to find out the nature of the fever.

Most patients had avoided getting the test done because it cost a lot of money (Rs. 750) and they did not see why they should spend so much money for what appeared to be just an ordinary fever. That is, until people started dying like flies and newspapers began writing about it.

Finally, the doctors got moving. And the National Institute of Virology in Pune got into action. Doctors, who conducted postmortems on the bodies of the victims, found that the disease responsible for the deaths of all these people was called leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease transmitted from rat urine to human beings. Doctors realized that almost all the patients had caught the fever after wading through the stagnant puddles caused by the monsoons in Mumbai.

The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai realised it had a job on its hands. It had to flush out all the disease-spreading rats from Mumbai. So, it came upon a plan: to include the common man in its cleaning drive.

Rat Menace
Rat Menace [Illustration by Shiju George]
The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now declared that anyone who kills a rat and submits it to the Corporation, can earn Rs. 5. But, it has a condition: a minimum of five dead rats must be submitted at a time at any of the BMC’s local offices.

Mrs Khanolkar, who works in the insecticide department of BMC told The Hindustan Times newspaper that the Corporation has 44 permanent rat catchers on its payroll. And there are 137 others who arrange for rat-traps, make house calls and prepare the poison to get rid of the rodents.

Obviously, the number of people employed for this job is not enough to rid the city of rats. Which is why the BMC came up with this novel way of coping with the rat-menace. Not only would they get rid of the disease-causing rats, people would be more than happy earning some money from the enterprise too.