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Colonial clues to contain cholera

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 30: Looking for a first-hand solution to combat the growing cholera menace, state health department babus are now turning pages of documents filed in the colonial era.

The department has issued for five volumes of records from Orissa State Archives hoping to discover some clue to contain the spread of the disease. The records — Municipal Department, Government of Bengal, 1897 — has five volumes. The topics include the cholera epidemic of 1896, the cholera inoculation of 1896, communication between different provinces during the 1894 cholera epidemic and regulations under Epidemic Disease Act, 1897.

“There are some interesting measures adopted by the British to contain the spread of the disease. Most are letters written by the state governments to sanitary commissioners or municipal authorities directing them how to check the spread,” said archives superintendent Debraj Pradhan.

A letter written by a Surgeon Major, W.G. King, the acting sanitary commissioner (Madras) to the chief secretary of the Government of Bengal reads: “Whenever an epidemic occurs, cholera pills or similar medicines should be made available at all police stations, post offices and cutcherries of wards and encumbered estates in the area affected. The zamindars and other persons of influence should be induced to distribute these remedies.”

Another letter written by district sanitary officer of Ganjam surgeon Lieutanent Colonel Hackett Williams reads: “Every train coming from the direction of Worli towards Hyderabad should be stopped at Lingampalli and the doctors should confirm that no passenger is infected.”

Pradhan said: “The letters are a fine example of how Britishers tried to check the spread of epidemics such as cholera, plague and small pox in the interiors. We are not sure if the documents would benefit the departments, but it surely would open them to new ideas.”

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