Bihar: Let Them Eat Rats

“Eating of rats will serve twin purposes — it will save grains from being eaten away by rats and will simultaneously increase our grain stock,” said Vijay Prakash, an official from the state’s welfare department.

This statement, reported by Reuters and carried widely by many news agencies on 18 August 2008, seems even more absurd in the wake of the worst floods Bihar has seen in 50 years. Estimates range from 2 to 2.5 million displaced as remote villages in the poorest state in India were inundated by water when an embankment on the Kosi River burst near the India border in Nepal on 18 August.

Jitan Ram Manjhi, Bihar’s Caste and Tribal Welfare Minister, said rat meat was a healthy alternative. “We are very serious about implementing this project since the food crisis is turning serious day by day,” said Manjhi, who has eaten rats.

And if exhorting Biharis rich and poor to eat rats to mitigate low grain stocks and rising prices was not insult enough, it seems that state and central authorities are partly responsible for the breach in the Kosi River.  According to an editorial in the Hindustan Times on 27 August, under a 1954 treaty with Nepal, India is responsible for the safety and maintenance of the river’s embankments.

The pressure on the embankments of the Kosi River from heavy silt build-up was reported by Indian and Nepali water engineers in 1997, who predicted a major disaster should the embankments collapse.

Officials now report that villagers are eating uncooked rice, flour or cornmeal mixed with polluted water as they have no means of cooking the food.  No mention of rats.


3 Responses to “Bihar: Let Them Eat Rats”

  1. 1 Nepali Journal August 30, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Hi, I think the Indian government’s apathy towards Koshi River is the problem. Koshi flooded Nepal, before Bihar was hit. The dam in Nepal on the Koshi river is controlled by Indian authorities, and many in Nepal hold them responsible for the ravaging destruction that Koshi brings in Nepal every time. Also, there seems to be a lot of politics and pecuniary motivations behind letting Bihar flood. Months before the flood is to come, there’s a lot of heat in Bihar concerning who would take care of the relief works and etc. Also, the dam was getting weaker – I heard that in Nepali Television Channels a long time before. The Indian side was responsible for the maintaining the dam, but it didn’t. I just hope that the general Indian populace knows the truth, and doesn’t put Bihar’s flooding as Nepal’s mistake.

  2. 2 Bhojpuri Baba September 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Again we see anti Indian rhetoric from the Nepali side. Anti Indian politics has been the core of Nepali Nationalism.
    Indian Engineers were waiting in Patna to go to the dam for observation but was denied; secondly the Nepali foreign minister was laughing on TV on the plight of Bihar. Thank god we Biharis are part of India and not a miserable country like Nepal. I see doom and destruction to that country where it cant even make matchsticks to light up its stoves.
    Without Indian help Nepal would come to a halt.

  3. 3 yoomilee September 4, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Dear Bhojpuri Baba,

    I see no reason for your invective against Nepal and Nepalis. Most of the Indians who have studied the perpetual flooding in Bihar point the blame squarely on the part of the Indian government, both the Centre and the State. Please see the following articles, which are two of many that outline the history of the man-made flooding in Bihar:


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