Monday, August 31, 2009

Bangladesh, Famine-1943 (contd-1)

A "scorched earth" policy was implemented in the Chittagong region, nearest the Burmese border ,while large amount of rice were exported to the Middle East to feed British and Indian troops there, and to Ceylon, which have been heavily dependent on Burmese rice before the war, and where large military establishments were being created as it was feared that the Japanese might invade the Island.

Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the time, his involvement in the disaster and indeed his knowledge of it remains a mystery.When in response to an urgent request by by the secretary of state for India ., Leo Amery, and Wavel to release food stocks for india in a telegram saying Bengal famine was one of the greatest disasterthat had befallen any people under British rule and damage to our reputation here both among Indians and foreigners in India was incalculable. Churchil responded with telegram to Wavel asking , if food was so scarce, "why Gandhi hadn't died yet." Initially during the famine he was more cxoncerned with the civilians of the Greece (who was also suffering from famine)compared with the Bengalis. In the end Churchil did ask for US assisstance, writing to Roosevelt that he was "no longer justified in not asking for aid" but American reponse was negative.

The Bengal Govt. failed to prevent rice exports, and made little attempt to import surpluses from elsewhere in India, or to buy up stocks fromspeculators to redistribute to the starving. In a recent book "Liberty or death, India's Journey to Independence and Division " by Patrik French, one finds that though there was no grain going for India, food supplies and the transport to carry them had been made available for Holland. British politicians like Churchil seemed content to let India starve, while still wanting to use it as a base for military operations.

The role of the Bengal Government

Not only the press and public but the Govt. of India did not spare the provincial ministry for its inefficiency and lack of will to act. The Statesman , the leading Calcutta News paper, consistently pilloried Surawardy and the Bengal Ministryin mismanaging the food situation. The attack against Govt. was launched two counts ineptitude and Indifferent attitude of the Ministry and all pervasive maladministration.