Published on April 15, 2020
Ahmedabad: A major outbreak of a disease, apprehension of spread among the authorities and citizens alike, discussions to arrest its spread and finally restricting the movement of the citizens – the description reads like Covid-19 but in fact, it was the highlight of 1936 outbreak of meningitis in British-era Kaira district which consists of Kheda and Anand districts of Gujarat today.
Pundrik Vyas, a resident of Gulbai Tekra, mentions that his father Krishnashankar A Vyas was an assistant collector during the British era when the outbreak took place. His administrative years are chronicled in book ‘Kalyug na Karmayogi,’ he mentioned. KA Vyas later became a collector in British administration and later served in the erstwhile Bombay state.
“In summer of 1936, the outbreak of meningococcal was reported and one of the biggest signs of the infection was fever which affected a person’s brain and often resulted in death. My father mentions that it was a tough call for the administration to ensure that the outbreak is contained. They held several meetings with the nagarpalika president Somabhai Shah,” said Vyas, adding that the biggest contention was the major step of ‘lockdown.’
Finally, a major meeting of all the stakeholders was convened and Vyas put forth the proposal that all the human contact is restricted including cancellation of the central examination for matriculation which could have affected hundreds of students. Many were not in favour of such a drastic step and argued that the fears are unfounded, and it would affect the region adversely.
“But the majority prevailed including the opinion of government surgeons, doctors and administrators. The biography mentions that the railway station was closed down and so did temples, schools and educational institutes. Finally the outbreak subsided and life resumed with the lessons on public health and safety,” said Vyas.
He said that the incident about eight decades ago rings true today with what we are experiencing in areas such as Ahmedabad with high number of cases.