This could a case of déjà vu for Pune.
As swine flu cases are rising by the day in the city, the state government had enforced provisions of a 112-year-old law that came into force because of an epidemic during the British Raj.
The officials can forcibly take suspect swine flu patients for screening — but it does not apply in the real context because anxious people themselves go to hospitals without doctors’ references.
The Indian Epidemic Act, 1897, was enacted by the British government to tackle the situation after an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Pune.
“It was the worst period, Pune city had ever experienced in its history. About 300 to 400 people used to die at a time and it was difficult task to cremate all the bodies,” said Dr M.P. Mangudkar, who has written several books on the
history of Pune.
About 2.5 lakh people in India — mostly in Pune — succumbed to the plague that began in 1896 and wrecked havoc for the next four years.
Due to the outbreak, a special Act was enacted and the administration was given sweeping powers to check the spread of the disease.
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.
But the excesses by the Army as well as nominated officer, Pune Commissioner General W.C. Rand, angered the Puneites.
Journalist Arvind Gokhale said Lokmanya Tilak had written several editorials in his newspaper, Kesari, against the soldiers who undertook search operations to identify plague patients.
“Soldiers used to humiliate the people, including women, which led to unrest among the people,” Gokhale said.General Rand by assassinated by the Chaphekar brothers on July 22, 1898.