Mautam expert pooh-poohs money-for-rat's tail

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Aizawl, Oct 24 (UNI) Even as the Mizoram Government renewed the money-for-rat's tail scheme, the policy it had condemned six years back, to combat the proliferation of rodents resulted by Mautam (bamboo flowering), a rodent expert rediculed the fresh effort saying "It is too late." "What do they think they are going to do with the policy now.

Rodents have already been proliferated and all the damage has been done", Mautaqm expert Padma Shree C Rokhuma while criticsing the government plan said.

"Actually, the rodents will start annihilating from next January as there will be no more bamboo flowers to feed on," Mr Rokhuma predicted.

"One may find plenty of rats' tails if one happens to come across a mass grave of rats by next year. That would fetch lots of money, the 90-year-old Rokhuma, who had been researching on the catastrophic Mautam and its related rodents since 1951, insisted that the policy of buying of rats' tails should have been applied continuously without any interruption.

Mautam, locally known is a catastrophic gregarious bamboo flowering that occurs every 48 years, resulting great multiplication of rodents which feed on the bamboo flowers. Then, after feeding on bamboo flowers, the rats would attack rice cultivations. The last Mautam in the late fifties brought about famine across Mizoram which had let to the formation of Laldenga-led Mizo National Famine Front, which later changed to Mizo National Front. The result was the 20-year-long insurgency starting from 1966.

According to Rokhuma, who had vice-chaired the state level rodent control till 2000, the state government had applied the policy during 1998-1999 during which more than one lakh rats' tails were purchased at the rate of Re 1 per tail. Now, the government was offering Rs 2 per tail, he said. He said the policy had been forsaken from 2000 when Dr OP Singh took over as Agriculture director. Otherwise, the rodent attack would have been lesser, he opined.

Before the 1950's Mautam, Rokhuma headed the famous Tam Do Pawl (anti famine campaign) through which he had campaigned for money-for-rats' tails among others to combat rodents multiplication.

Notably, luncheon was abolished from Mizo practice following the campaign for preparation of Mautam-related famine. Now, forty-eight years later, Mautam-related rodents have ravaged the paddies of Mizoram.

According to the Agriculture department's record, over 76,0389 hectares of croplands in 191 villages in the eight districts have already been affected. Agriculture's deputy director (plant protection) James Lalsiamliana has said that rodents had destroyed crops worth over Rs 15 crore. The money-for-rat's tail policy is one of several programmes launched by the state government.

"We have received a good response. After the launching of the policy, farmers are showing great enthusiasm in killing rats," Lalsiamliana said.

The Centrally-funded Baffacos (Bamboo Flowering and Famine Combat Scheme) is another programme to combat the Mautam menace.

UNI

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