Railways declares war on rampaging rats

March 3rd, 2009 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) After digging through miles of cable lines and chewing up precious valuables, an army of rats infesting the New Delhi railway station will now be flushed out of their secure homes - but not before burning a costly hole in the pockets of Northern Railway.

An estimated million fat rats infest trains and scurry along platforms at the station. After several failed attempts, the Delhi division of Northern Railway is finally doing something concrete to solve the rodent menace: a Rs.1.7 million/Rs. 17 lakh contract with a pest control company has been signed.

“All our earlier attempts failed miserably to control the rats. We have handed over the area to the firm and hope for a radical change in the next one month itself,” said a senior railway official.

However, officials at the Godrej Hicare Company that has been given the one-year contract feel that the infestation may be too large to control within a month.

“According to our initial survey, there are over a million rats in the four acres of land of the station,” Ravi, Godrej Hicare executive coordinating the project, told IANS.

“These are bandicoots - they multiply really fast. To track them entirely may take up to three months; the impact will not be immediate,” he added.

The entire New Delhi station area from Shivaji Bridge to Sadar Bazar has been handed to the agency, which will rid the entire running line area and the station buildings of rats over the next year.

One of the worst affected areas in the station is the cloakroom on platform number 1 where as many as 2,500 passengers deposit their luggage on a daily basis. Passengers can use the facilities here for Rs.10 daily to store luggage for up to a month.

“Rats are eating into passengers’ belongings. Passengers get angry and file complaints,” said a woman caretaker standing outside the cloakroom.

The project, set to start soon, will involve 15 technicians and is designed to first flush out the rodents.

“The first month will entail a complete flush out. We will destroy the harbourages and put bromide coated granules in the infested areas,” said Praveen Kumar, who conducted initial field surveys while pitching for the contract.

Seems simple enough, but is it?

“The task is difficult. We have been given a list of dos and don’ts from the railway authorities. We have to take precautions like not putting these poisonous granules in open areas. There are monkeys hanging around, dogs in and out, even young children travelling - for whom the granules can be dangerous,” Kumar explained.

Norms like no spraying insecticides inside the station complex also have to be followed. For rodent checks however solid pellets are used not sprays, Kumar informed.

“It’s not going to be easy. Even if you kill six out of every 10 rats in the first go…the remaining four will breed really fast. So we will need an exhaustive plan,” Ravi said.

These rats have been breeding at the station for years and have extensive under ground networks. The average size of the rodents is 12 inches long and four inches wide. “There are bigger ones as well,” Kumar said.

Railway officials had feared that if all the rats die at one place the entire premises will have to be shut “as the smell will be unbearable”.

So for this purpose the company has selected a secluded area away from the main station where the dead rats will be piled up. After this they will “either be covered with soil or set on fire.”

In addition to this project, Indian Railways already has a comprehensive India contract with the Central Warehouse Corporation (CWC) for pest control on board trains.

“The problem is huge and the extent of infestation differs in each sector. Mumbai and Delhi are the worst affected when it comes to the rodent problem,” said Sher Jagjit Singh, deputy general manager, pest control services, CWC.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at shweta.s@ians.in)

– Indo-Asian News Service

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