Friday, July 31, 2009

Bangladesh, Famine (contd-1)

Fmine is the extreme form of starvation sufferred by a population of an area due to scarcity of food either by failure of production or by maldistribution or by both. Crop failures might be due to adverse climate or topographical imbalances like draughts,floods,excessive rainfalls etc as well as animal or plants diseases plagues of locusts and other insects. In many cases famines are caused by poor transport and communications and absence of well established channels of trade system. At present it is accepted that famines originate mainly from "entitlement failures."As Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen said, "access to food is not only a function of food supply but it is influenced by a variety of factors that affectthe capacity of particular households and social
groups to establish entitlement over food." In a free market economy access to food is subject to direct and indirect entitlements.
Direct entitlement implies access of peasants to the food they produce. Indirect entitlement mainly indicates the trade entitlement generating from the capacity of the households to exchage what they have to sell in the market to buy necessary goods and services. Several non-market factors such as socio-political status, role of the state, the legal system, and the role of media also aid to these indirect entitlement. Famines may visit even when there is no decline in food output and availibilityper head. Thus distribution failures , and not production failures, come in the forefront in the causation theory of famines.The earliest famine in Bengal region is recorded in a stone inscription found at MAHASTHANGARH near Bogra in the third century BC, wherein the higher authority instructed subordinate officials to supply oaddy to distressed places and to reimburse the same through coins during heydays. But no further evidence of famines is available for the next centuries. It may, however, be said that during this time , though the commodities of the country used to be sold at a very cheap rate, ordinary people lived in abject POVERTY at the subsistence level, almost always facing the threat of famine. A number of intense famines have visited the land now known as Bangladeshin the last three hundred years.