Q.:- What does the 1903 plague and the measures to control it tell us about French colonial attitude towards questions of health and hygiene?
Plague is a disease caused by rats. Sometime it assumes the form of an epidemic. In 1903, the modern part of Hanoi was struck by bulonic plague. The main cause for this was the increasing number of rats in sewers which were laid out in the French part of Hanoi to keep the city beautiful and clean.
To control plague, measures were taken as follows
The French hired many Vietnamese workers and they were paid for each rat caught, by them. This rat hunting was started in 1902 and on 30th May, 20,000 rats were caught but the problem of rats could not be solved completely. However, this proved beneficial to the Vietnamese workers as they were paid for each tail of the rat. They did not kill the rats but only clipped their tails and set them free again. In short, we can say that the French were deceived.
This shows that the French attitude towards health and hygiene was hypocritical and exploited the Vietnamese for two reasons —
(i) The modern city with sewerage was made only where the French lived neglecting the old city areas where the Vietnamese lived.
(ii) The activity of entering the sewers to catch the rats was given to the Vietnamese, without caring how their health would be affected.