|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|
'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.