chapter  4
29 Pages

‘Subordinate’ negotiations

Indigenous staff, the colonial state and public health
WithAmna Khalid

The term ‘subordinate sanitary staff’ is a very broad and needs to be explained at the outset. Countless subordinates were deployed to implement sanitary measures, from the local health officer to ‘native’ vaccinators and sweepers, from female inspectors to coolies and disinfectors. The subordinate police provided a means by which the colonial administration could keep a finger on the pulse of political developments on the ground. The subordinate police played an active part in the control of venereal disease all over India following the Contagious Diseases Acts by hunting down unregistered prostitutes and forcing them to undergo medical inspection. The authorization of an inquiry was sufficient to establish distance from the subordinate police and to appear to be fair; a further admission of the failings of state policy was perhaps unnecessary. The subordinate police were officially appointed for conservancy duty – that is, herding people to latrines and preventing them from fouling the fair site.