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When Gandhi battled an epidemic

  • calendar 04-Jun-2020
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When Gandhi battled an epidemic

I have written in these columns about Gandhi’s response to the plague epidemic in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1905. When after an abatement, the contagion was threatening to reappear, he wrote an article in his journal Indian Opinion on January 16, 1905, which bears substantial reproduction. “Once again the dark clouds are gathering. It will be to the great benefit of our people if they bear in mind the following rules; otherwise there would be immense harm. What is more, it might be used as an argument for enacting more severe laws against us: (1) No one should think that the government will harass the patient after removing him to the hospital. (2) The government should be immediately informed in case of a sudden attack of fever or asthma. (3) A doctor should be immediately consulted. (4) Everyone should stay where he is without becoming panicky. (5) Those who might have come in contact with a plague patient should not try to conceal the fact but should come forward to have their clothes etc, disinfected. (6) One should not, under any circumstances, have one’s bedroom attached to the shop to save money. (7) One should not stock any goods for sale in one’s house. (8) One should keep one’s house scrupulously clean. (9) Every house or room should be well-lighted and well-ventilated. (10) One should sleep with the windows open. (11) The clothes worn by day as well as those used during the night should be kept clean. (12) The food taken should be light and simple. (13) Lavish dinners and feasts should be stopped. (14) Dry earth or ashes should be provided in latrines where buckets are used; and everyone should after easing himself cover the night soil thoroughly with these so that no flies sit thereon. (15) Lavatories and urinals should be kept clean. (16) The floors and other parts of the house should be washed clean with disinfecting fluid mixed in hot water. (17) No article from an infected place should be used elsewhere. (18) More than two persons should not sleep in a room of normal proportions. (19) One should not sleep in the kitchen, dining room or the larder. (20) Walls should be plastered with cement in order to keep out rats. Care should, most of all, should be taken to see that foodstuffs are kept beyond their reach. (21) Those who always work indoors should go out into the open air and walk a couple of miles daily for exercise.”

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