MUMBAI: In an embarrassment for the Maharashtra government, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former minister Eknath Khadse on Thursday sought an enquiry into a rat-killing contract awarded to rid the state government headquarters, Mantralaya of the rodent menace.
Demanding the probe to see how it was executed, he wondered how the contractor could kill a whopping 319,400 rats in just one week - between May 3-10, 2016.
"According to a survey, there were some 319,400 rats in Mantralaya for which a work order was issued by the General Administration Department (GAD). The company was given six months time, but it claimed to have eliminated all the rats in just seven days," Khadse told the legislative assembly.
Interestingly, the GAD is headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In contrast, the senior BJP leader pointed out that it had taken the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) two years to kill only 600,000 rats in the city.
Elaborating on the Mantralaya rat-killer contractor, Khadse said the figures indicate they killed 45,628.57 rats per day, or a stupendous 1,901.19 per hour.
"This also means the contractor killed 31.68 rats every minute. Their weight was around 9,125.71 kgs and daily one truckload was required to take the dead rats out of Mantralaya. However, it is not yet known where these dead rats were disposed. Will the government show us where the remnants were dumped," he said, raising guffaws among the legislators on both sides.
He even jocularly remarked that instead of hiring a private contractor for the job, the government could have just deployed 10 cats to finish off the rats.
The former minister asked whether the contractor had permission to use the rat poison on the high-security Mantralaya premises and wondered 84-year old farmer from Dhule, Dharma Patil, had consumed the rat poison to commit suicide in the Mantralaya precincts in January.
Incidentally, according to information available, the BMC pays Rs 18 to kill one rat to its contractors to rid the city of the rodent menace.
On an average the civic body shells out around Rs 4 to 5 crore annually for the exercise carried out manually by the exterminators using a torch and a stick, as the rats are responsible for several health hazards, especially during monsoons.
By this figure, the Mantralaya contractor may be entitled to a whopping Rs 5.70 million for the weeklong contract to free the building of rats.