Monday, August 31, 2009

Bangladesh, Famine, 1943

Bengal witnessed several famines during British rule in India. Amongst them two were of serious nature. One in 1770 (known as Chiattarer Manwantar) and the other in 1943, Great famine. The first one was at the initial stage of British rule but the latter, known as great famine of 1943, looked like the terminal disease of British Imperial rule. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the prophet of Indian Nationalism, wrote his famous novel , "Anandamath" with the battle cry of "Bandemataram" in the context of the agony evoked by the ravages of the famine of 1770.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bengal had 30 to 40 famines during 182 years of British rule . The last big famine in Bengal occurred during WW II ( 1939-1945). During 1942-1943 at least 4 million people of Bengal lost their lives due to hunger or malnutrition. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen had demonstrated quite convincingly that the famine was man-made.People died not of shortage of food but of drastic slump in food production. Dr. sen was of opinion that there was no overall shotage of rice in Bengal in143-availability was actually slightly higher than in 1941,when there was no famine.
Food Availability Decline or Man Made;
Food shortages were worsened by the second World War,with British administration of Indiaexporting foods to Allied soldiers. The table would give actual information,
Year............Rice Production in Million Tons
1938. .......... 8,474
Amartya Sen had cast doubt on the idea that the rice shortage was due to a fall of production. He quotedofficial records for rice production in Bengal in the years leading upto 1943 as reported in the table above.
Amartya Sen had recently estimated that three million might be be slightly too high an estimate and that two to two and a half million might more accurate loss of lives.He also said that famines do not occur in functioning democracies.
Another Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow provided a discussion of this argument. It should be noted that during 1950 to 1984, in the days of Green Revolution round the Globe, grain production increased by 250 %.

Amartya Sen

The root of this famine had been demarcated as the situation caused by sudden turn of WW II since 1942 in the eastern part of Asia. 1. Burma fell under Japan in 1942 and the flow of rice from Burma was disrupted. 2. INA led by Netaji Subhas Bose with the assisstance of Japanese soldiers was proceeding towards India with the slogan "Dilli Chalo", food shortage was artificially created so that INA and other soldiers would face trouble. 3. By Dec 1942, the price of rice was made to increase double of the previous price.

The coming of the famine by the middle of 1943 was preceded by a political crisis in bengal. Sir John Herbert the governor dislodged Huq ministry by devious means. A new ministry under Nazimuddin was installed on 24 April 1943with the support of European legislators. On assuming charge Surawardy redirected the strategy of the civil supply department . He launched a de-hoarding drive in the rural areas. the coercive method of the Govt. became counter productiveand the situation ran out of control.