Government's Celebrations Amidst Corpses
In 1896, famine broke out in India. Tilak
pressed the government to relieve the distress of the people at once.
He helped the farmers affected by the
famine. He col lected information about the conditions in every district
and published it in the 'Mahratta' and the 'Kesari'.
Plague broke out while the people were
still in the grip of famine. Tilak opened some hospitals and, with the
help of volun- teers, looked after the patients.
Though the people were in the grip
of famine and plague, the government was indifferent. The Viceroy himself
said that there was no cause for anxiety. He also said that there was no
need to start a 'Famine Relief Fund'! Revenue collection went on as usual.
The government's indifference was severely criticized in the articles published
in Tilak's papers. They published fearlessly reports about the havoc caused
by famine and plague and government's utter irresponsibility and indifference.
In the editorials, Tilak made appeals to the people and gave them advice.
He explained to them the 'Famine Relief Act'. He exhorted them to demand
relief from the govern ment as their right. "Are you cowards even while
you are dying? Can't you gather courage?" So he questioned the people.He
gave cons- tructive suggestions to the govern ment to arrest the plague.
The government made preparations to
celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign. On one side, people
were busy cremating the victims of the plague; on the other side, the governments
was busy making arrangements for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations!
At last, the government appointed a
Special Plague Offic er to arrest the havoc of the plague. His name was
Rand and he was more terrible than the plague itself. He sent armed soldiers
to make the people vacate the houses which plague had entered.
The soldiers forcibly entered the houses
and terrified the people with their guns. They admitted to the hospi tals
some one they could catch no matter whether he was suffering from plague
or not. They took the remaining members of the family to distant camps;
they burnt all their belongings on the assumption that they carded the
Rand Sahib became a worse plague than
the plague itself.
But, in his own hospitals, Tilak was
toiling day and night to save the lives of plague- affected people.