Bihar opposition, state government use rats to trade charges over corruption cases

Bihar's opposition accused the government of blaming rats for incidences of alleged corruption and natural calamities

By C K Manoj
Published: Friday 06 March 2020

Opposition lawmakers in Bihar, headed by former Chief Minister Rabri Devi, staged a bizzare protest using caged rats at the Bihar Legislative Council on March 6, 2020.

The opposition accused the government of blaming rats for incidents of alleged corruption and natural calamities in the past three years. During the protest, the opposition mocked the government and sought ‘action’ against the rodents.

Lawmaker Subodh Rai — a member of the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) — protested outside the upper house with a caged rat in hand and demanded “stringent punishment” against it.

Around 20 lawmakers of the RJD and Congress joined the demonstration, not witnessed before in the house.

“The Bihar government is blaming rats for every incident of corruption. We urge the state government to initiate action against them. For how long will they blame rodents?” Rabri Devi said.

She alleged a number of scams occurred under the watch of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, but the real perpetrators were yet to be caught.

The NDA in turn alleged the opposition — by protesting this way — lowered the dignity of the house.

The Bihar government, however, has a history of blaming rats for several incidents, including two that occurred as recently as last month.

The state health department blamed rodents for damaging around 100 saline water bottles meant for poor patients at Sadar hospital in Bihar’s Katihar district.

An inquiry was ordered by the department, which found rats had damaged a large number of these bottles.

“During the course of inquiry, we found the saline water bottles were kept outside the hospital storeroom, since it was full of medicines. Rats gnawed at the saline water bottles and damaged them,” Katihar civil surgeon Arvind Prasad Shahi told Down to Earth on March 06, 2020.

Rats damaged around 97 saline water bottles, according to Shahi.

In February, the state education department blamed rats for the disappearance of folders with certificates and degrees of more than 50,000 teachers appointed by the government in 2005 and 2006 on a contractual basis.

The Patna High Court had ordered an inquiry in 2014 after more than 400,000 teachers obtained the appointments by allegedly submitting fake degrees.

In 2017, Bihar Police had blamed rats for empty bottles of alcohol kept inside police storerooms in capital Patna.

Around 900,000 litres of alcohol were seized in the past 13 months in Patna since prohibition was imposed in the state in April 2016, according to an official report.

The seized alcohol included 567, 857 litres of foreign liquor and 310,492 litres of country-made liquor.

A surprise inspection by police officials, however, found the seized bottles were either empty or missing. All confiscated liquor bottles were crushed by road-rollers after the inspection.

In September 2017, rats were held responsible by authorities for massive flooding in north Bihar after embankments were breached in two different rivers, causing floods.

“Seepage from the Kamla River, which led to flooding of large areas and breaching of embankments, was caused by rats. They are the main reason behind the floods in the state,” Bihar’s water resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh had told reporters in 2017.

The state government — in the same month — alleged rodents had damaged river embankments along the Gandak River.

“It’s true that rats were responsible for damaging river embankments by carving holes. Accordingly, home guards are deployed in the flood period starting from June 15 to October 31 to look at the menace,” Shanti Ranjan Sharma, a superintending engineer at flood control planning and monitoring circle in the water resources department, had said in 2017.

Shiv Prakash Rai, an anti-corruption activist, questioned the point of constructing embankments if officials could not save them from rats, despite investing crores of rupees.

“This is just a dirty attempt to save the skin of the corrupt officials,” Rai said. “It’s very sad they are blaming rats for every fault. Perhaps they know the tiny creatures can’t speak in their defence,” he added.

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