While taking a stroll along the Mall Road in Lahore, one comes across several imposing architectural structures such as the Aitchison College, the General Post Office and the Mayo Hospital - all of these are a perpetual reminder of our British colonial heritage. The last mentioned building is still the biggest hospital in the city where thousands throng daily for cure and relief. But have we ever wondered why did the British introduce modern medical health facilities in India? A volume of 'the Historian' - the journal of the history department at the Government College University has published a chilling research by Natasha Sarkar that explains how - in addition to the minds - the bodies of Indians were also colonised by the imperial masters. Those of us who think that the British for the welfare of the native Indians instituted public health services still live in a fool's paradise. These were actually meant to protect the imperial soldiers and their families from disease and ill health. The most important were the 'military hospitals' in the cantonments followed by civil hospitals at the metropolis or the district headquarters, which attended exclusively European civilians whereas the general hospitals were meant for the natives. The hospitals were manned by a three-tier medical corps wet with racial vanity because the covenanted posts were reserved for Europeans, the uncovenanted for Eurasians and Anglo-Indians and the lowest rungs were offered to the Indians with no chance of elevation notwithstanding talent and experience. Drunk with brew of racial superiority, the possibility of Indian doctors inspecting European ladies was too humiliating a thought for the British. This colonial mindset can be best understood in Lord Rosebury's dictum: "What is empire but the predominance of race." The colonial army won the war of 1857 so the fulfilment of the needs and desires of the British soldiers became the top priority of the imperial administration. In order to satiate the sexual hunger of the lusty soldiers, who were described as 'our young soldiers' or 'our boy soldiers', the military authorities regulated prostitution on a systematic basis whereby regimental brothels or Lal Bazars were set up which supplied Indian women to the 'young boys'. This facilitation of mercenary sex caused the growth of infectious venereal diseases among the Indian prostitutes and to save the soldiers from these diseases 'Lock Hospitals' were established in which not only the diseased prostitutes were forced to go through obnoxious examination by the male military surgeons but they were also kept under filthy living conditions that corresponded to the worst maintained jails of that period. And when a humanitarian proposal was presented in 1868 to improve the conditions of the 'Lock Hospital in Black Town', Madras, the British-Indian government out rightly rejected the move. This was imperialism in action. On top of it, the European propagandists propagated that the subcontinent was a land of dirt, disease and sudden death, in plain words, a 'White Man's grave. Books were written to describe India as the house of major diseases and epidemics of that time such as plague, smallpox, malaria, cholera, etc. This is historically incorrect because plague had been plaguing Europe since the downfall of the Roman Empire and was common in Elizabethan England. Similarly, malaria was widespread in Greece, Italy, Spain and Latin America. While smallpox haunted America, cholera devastated France, Russia, US and England in the later half of the nineteenth century. These waterborne diseases were eradicated in the West due to sanitary reforms but as no such measures were adopted by the colonial government, the residents of India continued to suffer from these killer diseases. There were political reasons behind the propaganda against the Indian climate as being unsuitable for health. Till the end of the eighteenth century, it was widely held among the Europeans that the human body was capable of adapting to new environment. And as the British Empire expanded in the nineteenth century, many Europeans began to discuss the prospects of permanent settlement in the colonial lands including India - the jewel in the Crown. But British rulers deliberately discouraged such prospects. They had several apprehensions about India. For example, a large European influx could cause unrest among the local population. Two, the Indian colony could sever its link with Britain as the American colonists had done. But the most important was the likely loss of racial purity and the related moral and physical decline of the White Race. To discourage the Europeans from settling in the colonies, the colonial discourse purposely projected the East as 'dark' and the West as 'enlightened', 'modern' and 'civilised'. Thus, it became the self-assumed responsibility of British imperialism to civilise not only the minds but also the bodies of the 'backward' natives. Hence, the employment of modern medicine and techniques to conquer the 'Indian' epidemics. In this way, the indigenous medical systems of India that had provided succour to the ill for hundreds of years was marginalised and subordinated to the colonial medicine. The scientific techniques and modern medicine were vastly patronised by the British in the subcontinent. The 'achievements' of the European doctors and the 'wonders' that the modern medicine did in India were vainly glorified. On the contrary, it just served the civil and military bureaucracy of the empire, and a small class of its native urban collaborators whereas very little was done to improve the poor health of the teeming millions. I'll conclude with some glaring statistics taken from an enquiry conducted by Director of the Indian Medical Service, Major-General Sir John Megaw into the public health of villages in the subcontinent in the 1930s. One child out of every four died in infancy. Nearly two-thirds of the population (about 210 million human beings) was poorly nourished. 10 to 15 percent of the population was affected by venereal diseases. While tuberculosis was 'increasing steadily and rather rapidly', and six million suffered from night blindness due to under-nourishment, every year the victims of malaria ranged between 50 to 100 million. Equally horrifying was the 1927 report of the Government Health Department on Bengal. It unashamedly admitted that the Bengal peasantry was so badly nourished that 'even rats could not live longer than five weeks on such a diet'. Resultantly, the weakened population could not resist the slightest infection and thus in 1926, one lac and twenty thousand died of cholera, two lac and fifty thousand of malaria, three lac and fifty thousand of tuberculosis and one lac of enteric. Six years later, a government health report of 1933 on the Bombay province noted that there were 237 attacks of cholera, 72 cases of plague and 422 attacks of smallpox. Such were the wonders of Western medicine in the heyday of British colonialism in India. E-mail: qizilbash2000@yahoo.com