India is afflicted with rats.
Ordinarily, these rats go after predictable targets. Twice a century, for instance, huge rat infestations attack bamboo forests in northeastern India are, destroying crops and food stock. In 2018, up to 319,400 rats were cleared out from inside Mantralaya, the paper-filled offices of the government of Maharashtra, India’s most prosperous state.
But the rats also seem to go after seized contraband. Or so police forces in various parts of India maintain.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Times of India reported today (Nov. 24), a police statement claimed that rats ate through 581 kilograms of seized marijuana lying in police warehouses in the city of Mathura.
“Being small in size, rats have no fear of the police. Station House Officers cannot be experts in solving every problem,” a police official told a judge. “The police have been finding it impossible to protect substances kept in the storage areas,” the official added.
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The judge ordered the police to “get rid of the menace” and provide proof that rats did, indeed, consume the marijuana worth 60 lakh rupees.
Rats are India’s ubiquitous villains
The court’s circumspection is understandable. Rats seem to be common scapegoats for the police when valuable material goes mysteriously missing.
In 2021, the police in Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district claimed rats had drunk through 1,400 cartons of seized liquor worth 35 lakh rupees (more than $40,000). An inquiry reportedly revealed that the policemen in charge of the liquor cartons had sold them to a local gangster.
Similarly, in 2018, more than 1,000 litres of alcohol disappeared from a storehouse of a Bareilly police station—again, in Uttar Pradesh. Once again, the police force blamed rats. The same year, in the northeastern state of Assam, the police claimed that rats destroyed currency notes worth Rs12 lakh stored in a State Bank of India ATM. India’s rats, in fact, appear to have developed a strong taste for the unholy trifecta of human vices: money, drugs, and alcohol.