Thursday, 2 April 2020

India's 123 year old Epidemic Disease Act of 1897- Modi administration invoked it to contain covid 19!

India: The Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 byjus.com

The Covid-19 outbreak in India has made the Indian administrators  to go back on the early colonial period  under the British Crown when part of the globe was experiencing  the 3rd plague pandemic  that affected many countries in  1896-97.  Pune  and Bombay cities  in Maharastra  state (then Bombay Presidency) were  struck  by bubonic plague and the casualty was a huge one running into one million plus. 

The Modi Govt in the present corona crisis  relied on the  century-old, Colonial Era law that gives state-level governing bodies  extraordinary powers to control the disease, if it is a contagious and dangerous one.  Such  stringent laws are rooted in the Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 hurriedly  drafted and introduced by the  British during the Bombay  plague.  The law allows state govt. to take special and essential measures in case it is ''threatened with the outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease.'  The plague, first detected in Bombay,  later spread to places like Punjab, Bengal, the United Province (now UP) and  then to Burma. The western and eastern India experienced the worst and in 1901, the toll was 400000 and in 1905, it moved  above   one million people. About 2500000 people died in Pune due to Plague, almost 300 to 400 daily. It was tough job to cremate the bodies. The damage continued for four more years.  This act became a necessity for the British to control the spread of plague as India happened to be a multi-cultural  conservative society with many  languages, various customs and beliefs.  At one stage the British soldiers in the name of searching for symptoms of plague commuted excesses that angered the people and the national leaders.
The Act has been routinely used by the Central government to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue. Earlier in  2018, the Act was enforced as cholera began to spread in a region of Gujarat. In 2015, it was used to deal with dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and in 2009 it was invoked in Pune to combat swine flu. At present, this act is enforced to contain Covid-19.
India: The Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 www.slideshare.net
As  per the act, 'any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offense punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).   No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act'.
'Under the Act, a nominated officer was empowered to take any decision to control the epidemic. His powers included taking possession of suspected patient, controlling places of crowd and examining any individual or any place without permission from a legal authority'.
The Act also had a provision to send those opposing the examination to jail for up to six months.

 https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/112-yr-old-act-brings-back-nightmares-for-pune/story-a071LT1DVhdks45oSnK7tJ.html
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemic_Diseases_Act,_1897