Random Thoughts

The New Plague Epidemics

India has the dubious distinction of the only possible plague epidemic in the late twentieth century. If the population makes no effort to dispose of its garbage and leaves it to accumulate outside their homes, they provide the ideal milieu for rats to thrive and proliferate and fleas to flourish. The fleas bite the humans and the plague epidemic begins. In the thirteenth century, nearly a third of the people of Europe perished from this epidemic. There are other types of plagues as Camus wrote, in which the rats infest the corridors of power. India has both, classic and new plagues.

The history of Afghanistan is rife with tribal factions and fluctuating allegiance. Nearly 150 years ago, the British installed Shah Shuja, their puppet on the throne, after dislodging Dost Mohammed. They had to buy off some tribes, coerce others and eventually allegiances shifted and only Dr. Bryden returned from Kabul to Jalalabad as the solitary survivor of a total of 17000 men, women and children. Dost Mohammed was eventually restored to the throne and his words are still quotable and applicable to Britain then, Russia earlier and USA now. "I have been struck with the magnitude of your resources, your ships, your arsenals; but what I cannot understand is why the rulers of an empire so vast and flourishing should have gone across the Indus to deprive me of my poor and barren country".

A generation of war, factional fighting and internal terror in a country leads to decimation or migration of the educated, intelligent, well off and rational thinking populations. The relentless, senseless violence is self-selective and leaves behind only three categories of persons. The first and the largest are the helpless poor and unskilled, the second are the diehard fanatics, blinded by causes or beliefs and the third are cunning and unprincipled opportunists. This is what has happened to Afghanistan. The communists murdered the rightists and the Mujaheddin killed the leftists. The moderates, educated, skilled, rich and rational, emigrated and we are left with the three categories mentioned earlier, of which the last two are rats destined to perpetuate the plague.

Big powers gave their idiocy a name
By collective wisdom called Great Game.
Played only in Afghanistan's rear
By impaling it on a sharp spear.
All blew into the hole of the shard,
Claiming to hoist it by their petard.
Not all the muck and hot air
From the lion, eagle and bear
Helped to repair
The terrible tear.
It was always a failed state,
Now infecting its Islamic mate.

The mortality of an epidemic depends on the immunity, medical expertise and therapeutic armamentarium of the affected area. When the plague of rats hits an advanced, developed and sophisticated society and infests the corridors of power, then the harangued, disenchanted and wary population, withdraws, barricades and quarantines itself for protection by accumulating enough wealth, living in gated communities and refusing to vote!

To paraphrase a famous saying, what does it matter, whether the rats are Hindu, Moslem, Christian or Communists, they will bring plagues to the people, and are best gotten rid of, for the good of humanity. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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