Weaving Hope in Tanah Deli: Life and Healthcare of Plantation Workers in the East Sumatra’s Plantation Belt, 1870-1940

Main Article Content

Junaidi
Lila Pelita Hati https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3359-455X
Nurhabsyah https://orcid.org/0009-0006-8473-0933
Kiki Maulana Affandi https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9529-9284

Keywords

coolie ordinance, diseases, East Sumatra, healthcare, plantation worker, the Dutch East Indies

Abstract

The economic growth in the form of the plantation industry in East Sumatra changed the landscape and societal structure in this region. The plantation industry took in plantation workers from outside East Sumatra, namely Chinese, Javanese and Indian. The increasing number of plantation workers had elevated the industrial economy, yet it also caused social and health problems in East Sumatra. These plantation workers were recruited and bound by a regulation called the Koeli Ordonnantie 1880. This ‘Coolie Ordinance’ (Koelie Ordonnantie 1880) regulated the rights and obligations of employers and workers, including health services. This paper aims to explain the life and healthcare of plantation workers in East Sumatra from 1870 to the 1940s. The results of this study reveal changes that occurred in the life and health of plantation workers at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. The quality of health among plantation workers increased since the early 20th century due to better policies introduced by plantation companies to maintain the health of their workers. The efforts made were curative and preventive actions, as well as the eradication of infectious diseases and epidemics. The curative efforts were carried out by building health facilities and infrastructures such as polyclinics and hospitals. Meanwhile, the preventive efforts carried out included providing better food supplies, adequate drinking water, settlement development and good sanitation. Efforts to eradicate epidemic diseases were made by conducting research and establishing a disease research institute, namely the Medan Pathology Laboratory.

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