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Plague and Corona: How India Fought the Epidemics

Coronavirus is the first of the kind that our generation has witnessed. But this is not the first one that Indians are facing. We have also seen many more disasters than the corona. It is the PLAGUE. The Plague disease originated from the rats and it was first found in China in 1844 in the Yunnan Province. However, it came to India through a Hongkong man in 1896. The then British Colonial Government got the acknowledgment of the spread of disease in the year 1897. But, the question is how did the governments than with limited medical resources, limited budget, and infrastructure fought with the disease.

Let us get a brief knowledge about the way our British colonial government in 1897 and the Indian Government in 1994 tackle the epidemic.

Plague control Policy:

  • The first thing the British government did was to implement the EPIDEMIC DISEASE ACT 1897. Which is now implemented in our country. It gives the power to the state and central government to implement a curfew, lockdown, section 144, irrespective of people’s willingness. And those who disobey can be arrested under section 188.
  • The colonial government in 1897 and the Indian government in 1994 used the same measures as we are taking now that is, Lockdown for months, track the infects and treat them.
V0029287 Man being injected by doctor, during the outbreak of bubonic
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
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Doctor Simmonds injecting his curative serum in a plague patient, during the outbreak of bubonic plague in Karachi, India. Photograph, 1897.
Photograph probably by Jalbhoy, R.
The lettering is printed on the mount
Karachi is a port in the province of Sind (now [1996] Pakistan). It was placed in quarantine in 1882, during the outbreak of bubonic plague which spread from Bombay. The Plague Committee consisted mostly of volunteers, who were organised into parties and were responsible for the segregation and inoculation of various districts
Contained in an album of photographs which show the work of the Karachi Plague Committee in 1897
1897 Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
  • The governments then have put restrictions of entry in port cities especially, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras provinces. 
  • The British colonial government used the “WALDEMAR HAFFKINE’S” plague vaccine which worked for many.
  • Same as the Coronavirus, the Plague also effected the people who have lung diseases and breathing problems.
  • The Plague which started spreading in 1897 continued to be in India till 199.
  • Both governments used Antibiotics for treatment.

But still, it killed around 10 million people in India. This might be because of the least medical infrastructure and technology in those days. It took nearly 10 years for India to completely eradicate Plague from India. Compared to then, now India is in a better position and we have enough technology and coordination with other countries to tackle the corona epidemic. Even today, the treatment is the same, locking down the people, tracking the foreign returnees, testing them and treating the infected persons.

So, it is better to learn the lessons from past experiences. Stay at home. Visit the doctors if you have any symptoms and get treated. Take care of people above 60 years age as the fatality rate is high in that age group. Obey the government orders.

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