Another interesting point that came into focus through this analysis is that for those for whom the healthcare system is developed, their lifestyle and the socio-cultural background starts acting as a barricade in accessing these facilities. In India, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was observed that those affected by it tend to hide themselves inside their homes.
At the time when plague had spread in India, a system of making medical care available at home was put in place in the city of Pune. In general, the people in Pune supported the plague committee.
Charles Rand writes, ‘the people, in general, were amicable but they tried to hide their illness. The only group that was against the committee were Brahmins. Their attitude towards the soldiers was malevolent. The plague commission had to face a high amount of opposition in the Brahmin bastis (locality).
According to the plague commissioner, the hospitals designated for the Muslims were operating rather peacefully. The reason for this was the undisputed faith, towards the hospitals, among the Muslims. ‘Those admitted in these hospitals were poor. Moreover, the majority of the patients were brought to hospitals by their family members. While on one hand, these patients in the hospitals received great care and trust, among the Hindu patients, it was as if they were being brought forcefully to the hospital.’
On 22 June 1897, a deadly attack took place in which Charles Rand’s partner Lt. Oyster died on the spot and 10 days later on 3 July, Charles Rand also succumbed to his injuries. On 19 February 1897, a young Deputy District Officer Walter Charles Rand took the additional charge of plague control. In a small period of 2 months (19 Feb to April), Charles Rand was able to turn Pune into a plague free area.
Rand discovered that Pune had turned into a hotbed for plague. Pune was the local center of the political activities of nationalist leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak. On 25 April 1897, Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote an editorial in Maratha that was titled ‘A prayer before Lord Sandhurst’, which said that the appointment of Charles Rand as plague commissioner was unfortunate.
Prof. Pramila V. Rao has extensively written on the background of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s resentment towards Charles Rand. In 1894, Charles Rand was posted as an officer in Satara. The role of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in giving political colour to the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration was a highly talked about subject. While being posted in Satara, Charles Rand had put a ban on the playing of political songs by the nationalists during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. Moreover, he was also instrumental in punishing 11 Brahmins who had flouted the instructions.
The person accused of Charles Rand’s murder, Damodar Chapekar, and his two brothers Balakrishna and Vasudev and Mahadev Vinayak Ranade had been a follower of Hindutva Ideology. They were pronounced guilty and were punished with death by hanging. The Indian Postal Service on 8th July 2018 issued a postal stamp on the 120th death anniversary of Damodar Hari Chapekar.
It is also a fact that the biggest organisation that is a proponent of Hindutva ideology, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), mostly headed by a caste Brahmin, was born in Maharashtra 125 years ago, and India since 2014, under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, has been under the governance of a party whose political inclination is towards the Hindutva ideology.
But the caste and lifestyle of various caste groups heavily influence the physical and mental health of the people and is a pan-India phenomena.
Apart from Pune, plague had also spread in other parts of the country.
Researcher Dr. A.K. Vishwas, recently retired from Indian Administrative Service, through an official report, delineated that plague does not discriminate between caste, class, social status and race. But, while submitting a report to the government in Lahore (now in Pakistan), on the death rate due to plague, Menard, the Deputy Commissioner of Ambala, mentioned, ‘If plague spreads among the Brahmins they will start dying like flies. Brahmins and baniyas are not able to survive, the reason for which is that they spend the majority of their time bare-chested and bare-foot. This leads to them being easily susceptible to catch the illness.’