Calcutta, Sept. 19: WRATS! If Writers’ were ever to be overrun by rats — in a movie, of course — WRATS wouldn’t be a bad title.
Overrun may be too strong a word to describe the rat rage in the red building that is the Bengal government’s seat of power, but the little creature has gone far enough to soil the sofa in the chief minister’s room. And that, too, every day over a period of time, as if they had a point to make, before two of them were caught last month.
How Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reacted to his sofa being used by rats to relieve themselves is not known. But P.K. Agarwal, the principal secretary in the public works department (PWD), got so angry after his Internet cable was chewed on that he slapped a showcause notice on the Writers’ caretaker a few days ago.
PWD, by the way, is responsible for maintenance in the state’s administrative headquarters.
In his reply, caretaker B.P. Karfa conceded that the rat threat was spinning out of control.
This became the trigger for Mission Rat-A-Tat, not the official name. As part of the drive that has just started, 18 were nabbed this morning in traps laid in the offices of VIPs.
Lord Ganesh, who must have started on his way to Bengal with his mother Durga on his favourite transport, the rat, will be sad to know that the Writers’ exterminating operation will reach its height during the five days he will spend here during the Pujas.
If Ganesh is in any position to pass on intelligence, let it be known that the strategy is to lure the rats by laying out a scrumptious feast.
A kilo of chingri shutki (dried shrimps) will be mixed well with mustard oil and half a kilo of muri (puffed rice) and then laced with poison.
“The mixture will be laid along the corridors and boundaries of rooms the rats frequent the most. Since the building is closed for a long stretch, locating the bodies by their stench will not be a problem. This is in accordance with orders from the PWD secretary,” said a PWD official.
So whose rooms do the rats “frequent the most”' It seems fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee is a favourite. Four rats have been caught from his room over four days.
Of this morning’s catch, one each was nabbed in the offices of finance minister Asim Dasgupta, land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla, law minister Rabilal Moitra and home secretary Prasad Ranjan, a Rat-A-Tat official said.
The numerous food stalls that surround Writers’ make the building a prime candidate for infestation by rats, which happily live off the scraps outside.
“After visiting the food stalls in daytime, the rodents climb into Writers’ and enter the chambers in the evening. So far, they haven’t shown any interest in official files or papers, but they seem to like computer cables and telephone wires,” said an official.
The PWD has also decided to seek technological help. “Last week, a pest control company made a presentation. They have developed a rubber mat, which has to be laid along the corners of a room. Usually, rats run along the perimeter of rooms. Once a rat walks over this mat, its feet get stuck in the gum secreted by the mat,” said a senior PWD official entrusted with the job.
PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, however, prefers the traditional method — set a cat to catch a mouse. “I had suggested that we have more cats, but not everyone liked the idea,” he said.
So, if it’s not the cat, it’ll be the mat. It’s a rat’s life!