Bengal famine of 1943
The Bengal famine of 1943-44 (Bengali: Pañcāśēra manwantara) was a major famine in the Bengal province[A][B] in British India during World War II. An estimated 2.1 million[C] people died from starvation and diseases aggravated by malnutrition, population displacement, unsanitary conditions, and lack of health care. Millions were impoverished as the crisis overwhelmed large segments of the economy and social fabric.
|Bengal famine of 1943|
Image from the photo spread in The Statesman on 22 August, 1943 showing famine conditions in Calcutta. These photos altered world opinion on colonialism.
|Total deaths||Current est. 2.1 million|
|Observations||War, policy failure, supply shortfall (debated)|
|Consequences||Income inequality increased; Indian independence movement intensified|
Bengal's economy was predominantly agrarian. For at least a decade before the crisis, between half and three quarters of those dependent on agriculture were already at near-subsistence levels. The underlying causes of the famine include inefficient agricultural practices, over-population, and de-peasantisation through debt bondage and land grabbing. Proximate causes involve local natural disasters – a cyclone, storm surges and flooding, and rice crop disease – and various consequences arising from the war. The government prioritised military and defense needs, allocating medical care and food disproportionately to the military and civil servants. These factors were compounded by restricted access to grain: domestic sources were constrained by emergency inter-provincial trade barriers, while access to international sources was largely denied by the War Cabinet of Great Britain. The relative impact of each of these contributing factors to the death toll and economic devastation is still a matter of controversy. Different analyses frame the famine against natural, economic, or political causes.
The government was slow to provide humanitarian aid and never formally declared a state of famine. It first attempted to influence the price of rice paddy (rough, unhusked rice) through price controls. These created a black market and encouraged sellers to withhold stocks; moreover, prices soared when the controls were abandoned. Relief efforts were both insufficient and ineffective through the worst months of the food crisis phase. These increased significantly when the military took control of crisis relief in October 1943, and more effective aid arrived after a record rice harvest that December. Deaths from starvation began to decline, but "very substantially more than half" of the famine-related fatalities were caused by disease in 1944, after the food security crisis had subsided.
From the late nineteenth century through the Great Depression, social and economic forces exerted a harmful effect on the structure of Bengal's income distribution and the ability of its agricultural sector to sustain the populace. These included a rapidly growing population, increasing household debt, stagnant agricultural productivity, increased social stratification, and alienation of the peasant class from their landholdings. The interaction of these processes left clearly defined social and economic groups mired in poverty and indebtedness, unable to cope with the sudden economic shocks they faced in 1942 and 1943, in the context of the Second World War. Millions were vulnerable to starvation.
The Government of India's Famine Commission Report (1945) described Bengal as "a land of rice growers and rice eaters". Rice dominated the agricultural output of the province, accounting for nearly 88% of its arable land use and 75% of all crops sown.[D] Overall, Bengal produced one third of India's rice, and accounted for between 75 and 85% of daily food consumption. Fish was the second major food source,  supplemented by small amounts of wheat.[E] The consumption of other foods was typically relatively small.
Population and agricultural productivityEdit
Bengal province was densely populated;[F] according to census figures its population had increased by 43% between 1901 and 1941—from 42.1 million to 60.3 million. Over the same period India's population as a whole increased by 37%.[G] Bengal's economy was almost solely agrarian, but agricultural productivity was among the lowest in the world. Agricultural production had traditionally been characterised by "dependence on monsoon rainfall [instead of controlled and reliable irrigation],[H] archaic methods and crude tillage, low intensity of inputs, subsistence farming, proneness to famines, and the low productivity of land". Rice yield per acre had been stable or falling for perhaps centuries, and certainly since the beginning of the twentieth century.[I]
Prior to about 1920, the food demands of Bengal's growing population could be met in part by cultivating undeveloped lands. During the first quarter of the twentieth century Bengal began to experience an acute shortage of such land,[J] leading to a chronic and growing shortage of rice. Bengal's inability to keep pace with rapid population growth changed it from a net exporter of foodgrains to a net importer. Although imports constituted a small part of the total production, this may have been accompanied by a decrease in average consumption levels; it was estimated in 1930 that the Bengali diet was the least nutritious in the world:
Bengal's rice output in normal years was barely enough for bare-bones subsistence. An output of 9 million tons translates into one pound per day or less than 2,000 kcal per adult male. Even allowing for imports from neighboring provinces and Burma and trade accounted for only a small fraction of supplies in 1942/3 the province's margin over subsistence on the eve of the famine was slender.
These conditions left a large proportion of the population continually on the brink of malnutrition or even starvation. "So delicate was the balance between actual starvation and bare subsistence," asserted the Famine Inquiry Commission of 1945, "that the slightest tilting of the scale in the value and supply of food was enough to put it out of the reach of many and to bring large classes within the range of famine."
Rural credit and land-grabbingEdit
The Indian system of land tenure, particularly in Bengal, was very complex, with rights unequally divided among three diverse economic and social groups: traditional absentee large landowners or zamindars;[K] the upper-tier "wealthy peasant" jotedars; and, at the lower socioeconomic level, the ryot (peasant) smallholders and dwarfholders, bargadars (sharecroppers), and agricultural labourers. Zamindar and jotedar landowners were protected by law and custom, but those who actually cultivating the soil, with small or no landholdings, suffered persistent and increasing losses of land rights and welfare. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the power and influence of the landowners fell and that of the jotedars rose. Jotedars began to make substantial profits and gained power through their roles as grain or jute traders and, more importantly, by making loans to sharecroppers, agricultural labourers and ryots. They gained power over their tenants using a combination of debt bondage through the transfer of debts and mortgages, and parcel-by-parcel land-grabbing.
Typically, land-grabbing was accomplished by manipulating the informal credit market. Many formal credit market entities had disappeared during the Great Depression; peasants with small landholdings generally had to resort to informal local lenders, to purchase basic necessities during lean months between harvests.[L] Although land had traditionally been relatively available, the means of production (such as seed or cattle for ploughing) had always been scarce, and smallholders' lands were sometimes sold in times of distress to purchase these essentials.
Small landholders and sharecroppers acquired debts that were often swollen by usurious rates of interest.[M] Any poor harvest exacted a heavy toll; the accumulation of consumer debt, seasonal loans and crisis loans began a cycle of spiraling, perpetual indebtedness. It was then relatively easy for the jotedars to use litigation to force debtors to sell all or part of their landholdings at a low price or forfeit them at auction. Debtors then became landless or land-poor sharecroppers and labourers, usually working the same fields they had once owned. The accumulation of household debt to a single, local, informal creditor bound the debtor almost inescapably to the creditor/landlord; it became nearly impossible to settle the debt after a good harvest and simply walk away. In this way, the jotedars effectively dominated and impoverished the lowest tier of economic classes in several districts of Bengal.
The end result of this process of exploitation, together with Muslim inheritance practices that divided up land among multiple siblings, was growing inequalities in land ownership.[N] At the time of the famine, millions of Bengali agriculturalists held little or no land. The Land Revenue Commission of 1940 reported that "[t]he number of actual tillers of the soil with occupancy rights is diminishing so rapidly that the disappearance of this class is imminent".
Water provided the only reliable means of transport across most of the province during the rainy seasons, and all the time in areas such as the vast delta of the coastal southeastern Sundarbans. River transport was integral to many facets of Bengal's economic system, and was nearly irreplaceable in the production and distribution of rice. It provided the livelihoods of fishermen and transport workers, and was indispensable for the movement of the supplies and finished goods of various artisan trades, such as potters, weavers, and basket makers. Roads were scarce and generally in poor condition, and Bengal's extensive railway system was employed largely for military purposes until the very late stages of the crisis.
The development of railways in Bengal between roughly 1890 and 1910 contributed to the excessive mortality of the famine. The construction of a network of railway embankments disrupted natural drainage and divided Bengal into innumerable poorly drained "compartments". This brought about excessive silting, increased the tendency toward flooding, created stagnant water areas, damaged crop production, contributed (in some areas) to a partial shift away from the productive aman rice cultivar to less productive aush or boro cultivars, and provided a more hospitable environment for water-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria. Such diseases clustered around the tracks of railways.[O]
Soil and water supplyEdit
The soil profile in Bengal differs from between east and west. The sandy soil of the east, and the lighter sedimentary soil of the Sundarbans, tended to drain more rapidly after the monsoon season than the laterite or heavy clay regions of western Bengal. Soil exhaustion created the need for large tracts in western and central Bengal to be left fallow; eastern Bengal had far fewer fallow fields. The flooding of fallow fields created a breeding place for malaria-carrying mosquitoes; malaria epidemics lasted a month longer in the central and western areas with slower drainage.
Rural areas lacked access to safe water supplies. Water came primarily from large earthen tanks, rivers and tube wells. In the dry season, partially drained tanks became a further breeding area for malaria vector mosquitoes. Tank and river water is susceptible to contamination by cholera; tube wells are much safer in this respect.[P] However, landlords were often reluctant to sink tube wells for economic reasons, even when credit was extended for this purpose, and as many as one-third of the existing wells in wartime Bengal were in disrepair.
Pre-famine shocks and distressEdit
Throughout 1942 and into early 1943, military and political events combined with natural disasters and plant disease to place widespread stress on Bengal's economy. While Bengal's food needs rose from increased military presence and an influx of refugees from Burma, its ability to obtain rice and other foodgrains from outside the province was restricted by interprovincial trade barriers.
February–April 1942: Japanese invasion of BurmaEdit
The Japanese campaign for Burma began in late December 1941, and set off an immediate exodus for India of more than half of the one million Indians then living in Burma. On April 26, 1942, all Allied forces were ordered to retreat from Burma into India. Immediately, the demands of the military became the focus of official attention; according to author Hugh Tinker, “The Indians were left to their own devices. ... the troops arrived: pushing the refugees aside, laying hands on all supplies, and utilizing all available military transport.” By mid May 1942, the monsoon rains became heavy in the Manipur hills, further inhibiting civilian movement. The refugees fell victim to dysentery, smallpox and malaria, and later to cholera. According to one estimate, between 10,000 and 50,000 refugees died from various causes even before they reached India.
By April 1942, Japanese warships and aircraft had sunk approximately 100,000 tons of merchant shipping in the Bay of Bengal. According to General Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of the army in India, both the War Office in London and the commander of the British Eastern Fleet acknowledged that the fleet was powerless to mount serious opposition to Japanese naval attacks on Ceylon, southern or eastern India, or on shipping in the Bay of Bengal. The Japanese raids put additional strain on the railways, which also faced flooding in the Brahmaputra, a malaria epidemic, and the Quit India movement targeting road and rail communication. Throughout the period, the rail transportation of relief and civil supplies was further compromised by the railways' increased military obligations, and by the dismantling of the rail tracks that had been carried out in some areas of eastern Bengal in 1942 to hamper a potential Japanese invasion.
The fall of Rangoon in March 1942 cut off the import of Burmese rice into India and Ceylon.[Q] With the increase in demand created by the larger population, the price of rice by September 1941 was already 69% higher than in August 1939. After the loss of Burmese imports there was increased demand on the rice producing regions. This, according to the Famine Commission, was in a market in which the "progress of the war made sellers who could afford to wait reluctant to sell." The Japanese attack had not only provoked a scramble for rice across India, but had also caused a dramatic and unprecedented price inflation in Bengal, and in other rice producing regions of India. In Bengal, the price effect of the loss of Burma rice was vastly disproportionate to the size of the loss. Despite this, Bengal continued to export rice to Ceylon[R] for months afterward, even as the beginning of a food crisis began to become apparent.[S] The influx of refugees created more demand for food. More clothing and medical aid were needed, further straining the resources of the province. All this, together with transport problems that were to be created by the government's "boat denial" policy, were the direct causes of inter-provincial trade barriers on the movement of foodgrains, and contributed to a series of failed government policies that further exacerbated the food crisis.
1942–45: Military build-up, inflation, and displacementEdit
According to the Famine Commission, the proximity of Bengal to the war front, and the new status of Bengal as the base for war-related operations in India, made the "material and psychological repercussions of war more pronounced" in Bengal than elsewhere in India. To the Calcutta docks came soldiers of many nations. Nearby were barracks for the various armed forces, the soldiers there creating social disruption of their own during their off-duty hours. Nearly a thousand homes in Calcutta were requisitioned for military use and nearly 30,000 residents dislocated. To the south of Calcutta, entire villages were forced to evacuate for military use, dislocating another 30,000 people. According to the Famine Commission, overall, those evacuated from their homes and land numbered more than 30,000 families,[T] which comprised some 150,000 individuals. The Famine Commission thought that despite compensation being paid to the families, there was "little doubt" that many of their members became famine victims in 1943.
The Japanese conquest of Burma prompted a large buildup of the British Indian army, a significant portion of which was stationed in eastern India—in Bengal and Assam—along the border with Burma. By 1943, Calcutta had become a hub for Allied troops, who were stopping in the city on route to the war front and returning for R&R. According to authors Lohmann and Thompson, "feeding and supplying these large numbers of soldiers posed a significant challenge to the Allied command in India and put a much greater strain on already stretched domestic food supplies." There were local scarcities of daily necessities such as kerosene, cloth, sugar, cooking oil, pulses, fish, matches, yarn, coal and rice; prices rose rapidly due to large-scale military construction and the general inflationary pressures of a war-time economy. The rise in prices of essential goods and services was initially described "not unsatisfactory", and "not disturbing", but became more alarming in 1941. In early 1943, the rate of inflation for foodgrains in particular took an unprecedented upward turn.
In the system that the UK Government used to procure goods through the Government of India, private firms were required to sell goods to the military on credit and at fixed, low prices, but were free to charge any price they liked to the domestic market for whatever they had left over. By the end of 1942, domestic cloth prices had more than tripled from their pre-war levels; they had more than quadrupled by mid-1943. As a result, "civilian consumption of cotton goods fell by more than 23 per cent from the peacetime level by 1943/44". The effects were felt by the rural population in a "cloth famine", one of the severe hardships of the crisis in Bengal that was not alleviated until military forces began distributing relief supplies; for example, the United States Air Force flew 100 tons of warm clothing into eastern Bengal.
March 1942: Denial policiesEdit
British authorities feared that the Japanese would proceed through Burma and invade British India via the eastern border of Bengal. As a preemptive measure, a two-pronged scorched-earth initiative was launched in eastern and coastal Bengal, with the objective of preventing or impeding the invasion by denying access to food supplies, transport and other resources.[U] A "denial of rice" policy was carried out in three southern districts along the coast of the Bay of Bengal that were expected to have surpluses of rice – Bakarganj (or Barisal), Midnapore and Khulna. In late March 1942, Governor Herbert, acting under orders from the UK, issued a directive requiring surplus stocks of paddy (rough, unhusked rice) and other food items to be removed or destroyed in these districts. A side-effect of this policy was its detrimental impact on regional market relationships, and its contribution to a sense of confusion and public alarm.
As a second prong, a boat-denial policy was designed to deny Bengali transport to any invading Japanese army. It applied to districts readily accessible via the Bay of Bengal and the larger rivers that flow into it.[V] The policy, implemented on 1 May after an initial registration period, authorised the Army to confiscate, relocate or destroy any boats large enough to carry more than ten persons, and allowed them to requisition other means of transport such as bicycles, bullock carts, and elephants.
Under this policy, the Army confiscated approximately 46,000 rural boats. This severely disrupted river-borne movement of labour, supplies and food, and compromised the livelihoods of boatmen and fishermen. Transport was generally unavailable to carry seed and equipment to distant fields or rice to the market hubs. The Army took no steps to distribute food rations to make up for the interruption of supplies. Artisans and other groups who relied on boat transport to carry goods to market were offered no recompense; neither were rice growers nor the network of migratory labourers. The large-scale removal or destruction of rural boats caused a near-complete breakdown of the existing transport and administration infrastructure and market system for movement of rice paddy. No steps were taken to provide for the proper maintenance or repair of the confiscated boats, and many fishermen were unable to return to their trade.
This array of harmful effects had important political ramifications as well, as the Indian National Congress and many other groups staged protests denouncing the denial policies for placing draconian burdens on the Bengali peasants; these were part of a nationalist sentiment and outpouring that later peaked in the "Quit India" movement.
Mid-1942: Trade barriers and prioritised distributionEdit
Powers to restrict inter-provincial trade had been conferred on provincial governments in November 1941, as an item under the Defence of India Act, 1939.[W] Provincial governments began erecting trade barriers that prevented the flow of foodgrains (especially rice) and other goods between provinces, as a step towards ensuring sufficient food for their own population and thus forestalling civil unrest. In January 1942, Punjab banned exports of wheat;[X] this increased the perception of food insecurity and led the enclave of wheat-eaters in Greater Calcutta to increase their demand for rice precisely when an impending rice shortage was feared. The Central Provinces prohibited the export of foodgrains outside the province two months later. Madras banned rice exports in June, followed by export bans in Bengal and its neighboring provinces of Bihar and Orissa that July.
The Famine Inquiry Commission of 1945 would characterise this "critical and potentially most dangerous stage" in the crisis as a key policy failure. "The trade machinery for the distribution of food [between provinces] throughout the east of India was slowly strangled, and by the spring of 1943 was dead." Bengal was unable to import domestic rice; this policy helped transform market failures and food shortage into famine and widespread death.
Following the loss of Burma, the British government greatly expanded its system of prioritised distribution of goods and services. The Government of India divided socioeconomic groups into "priority" and "non-priority" classes according to the relative importance of their contributions to the war effort. Workers in prioritised sectors such as military and civilian construction, paper and textile mills, engineering firms, the Indian Railways, coal mining, and government administration, were given significant advantages and benefits. To a large extent, these priority classes were composed of bhadraloks, who were upper-class or bourgeois middle-class, socially mobile, educated, urban, and sympathetic to Western values and modernisation. Protecting their interests was a major concern of both private and public relief efforts. The prioritisation of medical facilities to these classes reduced levels of care available to the general population, and "milked the hospitals of India to the danger-point".
With food prices rising, the Government of Bengal and the Chamber of Commerce devised a "Foodstuffs Scheme" to benefit workers in essential war industries. Rice was directed away from the starving rural districts, to workers in industries considered vital to the military effort.[Y] By December 1942 the total number of prioritiseds individuals, with their families, was approximately 1,000,000; this high number forced the government to seize rice by force from mills and warehouses in Greater Calcutta. Any civilians not members of these privileged groups received severely reduced access to food and medical care; "vast areas of rural eastern India were denied any lasting state-sponsored distributive schemes".
August 1942: Civil unrestEdit
By early 1942, American president Franklin Roosevelt had expressed support for the nationalist cause in India. In Britain, the Labour Party was committed to a peaceful transfer of political power in India to an elected Indian body. British prime minister Winston Churchill responded to the new pressure by broaching the post-war possibility of an autonomous political status for India of the kind that then existed in Canada and Australia, but negotiations between the Indian nationalists and British authorities collapsed in early April 1942.
On 8 August 1942 the Indian National Congress launched the Quit India movement, intended as a nationwide display of nonviolent resistance. The British authorities reacted by imprisoning the Congress leaders; without its leadership, the movement changed its character and took to sabotaging factories, bridges, telegraph and railway lines, and other government property, thereby threatening the British Raj's control over India, as well as its war enterprise. The British acted to suppress the movement, arresting tens of thousandsand killing some 2,500. In Bengal, the movement was strongest in the Tamluk and Contai subdivisions of Midnapore district, where rural discontent ran deep. In Tamluk, by in April 1942 the government had destroyed some 18,000 boats in pursuit of its denial policy, while war-related inflation further alienated the rural population, who became eager volunteers when local Congress recruiters proposed open rebellion. The disorder and distrust that were the effects and after-effects of rebellion and civil unrest placed political, logistical, and infrastructural constraints on the Government of India that contributed to later famine-driven woes.
According to historians Bayly and Harper, quite apart from the exigencies of war, it was difficult not to conclude that the Churchill war ministry and Winston Churchill himself had a visceral hostility toward India; "The prime minister believed that Indians were the next worst people in the world after the Germans. Their treachery had been plain in the Quit India movement. The Germans he was prepared to bomb into the ground. The Indians he would starve to death as a result of their own folly and viciousness."
1942–43: Price chaosEdit
Throughout April 1942, British and Indian refugees continued to flee from Burma, many through Bengal, as the cessation of Burmese imports continued to drive up rice prices. In Bengal, prices were soon five to six times higher than they had been before April. In June, the Government of Bengal decided to establish price controls for rice, and on 1 July fixed prices at a level considerably lower than the prevailing market price. The principal result of the fixed low price was to make sellers reluctant to sell; stocks disappeared, either into the black market or into storage. The government then let it be known that the price control law would not be enforced except in the most egregious cases of war profiteering. This created about four months of relative price stability, until in mid-October, southwest Bengal was struck by a series of natural disasters that destabilised prices again. This caused another rushed scramble for rice, greatly to the benefit of the Calcutta black market. Between December 1942 and March 1943 the government made several attempts to to "break the Calcutta market" by bringing in rice supplies from various districts around the province, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
On 11 March 1943, the provincial government rescinded its price controls, resulting in dramatic rises in the price of rice. The period of inflation between March and May 1943 was especially intense; May was the month of the first reports of death by starvation in Bengal. The government attempted to re-establish public confidence by insisting that the crisis was being caused almost solely by speculation and hoarding, but their propaganda failed to dispel the widespread belief that there was a shortage of rice.[Z] The provincial government never formally declared a state of famine, even though its Famine Code would have triggered a sizable increase in aid, since such a declaration would have contradicted the government's own propaganda.
When inter-provincial trade barriers were abolished on 18 May, free trade caused prices to drop temporarily in Calcutta, but they soared in the neighbouring provinces of Bihar and Orissa, as Bengali traders rushed to purchase stocks. The government's attempts to locate and seize any hoarded stocks failed to find significant hoarding. Free trade was abandoned in late July and early August 1943, and price controls were reinstated in August. Despite this, there were unofficial reports of rice being sold in late 1943 at roughly eight to ten times the prices of late 1942 Purchasing agents were sent out by the government to obtain rice, but their attempts largely failed. Prices remained high, and the black market was not brought under control.
October 1942: Natural disastersEdit
In late 1942 Bengal was affected by a series of natural disasters. First, the winter rice crop was afflicted by an outbreak of fungal brown spot disease. Then, on 16–17 October a cyclone and three storm surges in October ravaged croplands, destroyed houses and killed thousands, at the same time dispersing high levels of fungal spores across the region and increasing the spread of the crop disease. The fungus reduced the crop yield even more than the cyclone.[AA] According to Padmanabhan (1973), the outbreak was so destructive that "nothing as devastating ... has been recorded in plant pathological literature."[AB]
The Bengal cyclone came through the Bay of Bengal, landing on the coastal areas of Midnapore and 24 Parganas, It killed 14,500 people and 190,000 cattle; while rice paddy stocks in the hands of cultivators, consumers, and dealers were destroyed. It also created local atmospheric conditions that contributed to an increased incidence of malaria. The three storm surges which followed the cyclone destroyed the seawalls of Midnapore and flooded large areas of Contai and Tamluk. Waves swept an area of 450 square miles (1,200 km2), floods affected 400 square miles (1,000 km2), and wind and torrential rain damaged 3,200 square miles (8,300 km2). For nearly 2.5 million Bengalis, the accumulative damage of the cyclone and storm surges to homes, crops and livelihoods was catastreophic:
Corpses lay scattered over several thousand square miles of devastated land. 7,400 villages were partly or wholly destroyed by the storm, and standing flood waters remained for weeks in at least 1,600 villages. Cholera, dysentery and other water-borne diseases flourished. 527,000 houses and 1,900 schools were lost. Over 1000 square miles of the most fertile paddy land in the province was entirely destroyed, and the standing crop over an additional 3000 square miles was damaged.
Following these events, official forecasts of crop yields predicted a significant shortfall. Traders warned of an impending famine, but the Bengal Government did not act on these predictions, doubting their accuracy and observing that forecasts had predicted a shortfall several times in previous years, while no significant problems had occurred.
December 1942: Air raids on CalcuttaEdit
The Famine Inquiry Commission's Report of 1945, discussing contributing factors to the famine, singled out the first Japanese air raids on Calcutta, which began on 20 December 1942. The daylight attacks, largely unchallenged by Allied defenses, continued throughout the week, triggering an exodus of thousands from the city. As evacuees traveled to the countryside, food-grain dealers in the city closed their shops. To ensure that workers in the prioritised industries in Calcutta would be fed, the authorities seized rice stocks from wholesale dealers, shattering any trust the rice traders had in the government. "From that moment," the 1945 report stated, "the ordinary trade machinery could not be relied upon to feed Calcutta. The [food security] crisis had begun."
1942–43: Shortfall and carryoverEdit
The question as to whether the famine arose primarily from a crop shortfall or from distribution failure was the subject of later debate. According to Amartya Sen: "The ... [rice paddy] supply for 1943 was only about 5% lower than the average of the preceding five years. It was, in fact, 13% higher than in 1941, and there was, of course, no famine in 1941." The Famine Commission Report concluded that the overall deficit in rice in Bengal in 1943, taking into account an estimate of the amount of carryover of rice from the previous harvest,[AC] was about three weeks' supply. In any circumstances, this was a significant shortfall requiring a considerable amount of food relief, but not a deficit large enough to create widespread deaths by starvation. According to this view, the famine "was not a crisis of food availability, but of the [unequal] distribution of food and income."
Several contemporary experts cite evidence of a much larger shortfall. Commission member Wallace Aykroyd wrote in 1975 that there had been a 25% shortfall in the harvest of the winter of 1942, while L. G. Pinnell, responsible to the Government of Bengal for managing food supplies from August 1942 to April 1943, estimated the crop loss at 20%, with crop disease accounting for more of the loss than the cyclone; other government sources privately admitted the shortfall was "2 million tons". Rutger's University economist George Blyn argues that with the cyclone and floods of October and the loss of imports from Burma, the 1942 Bengal rice harvest had been reduced by one-third.
1942–44: Refusal of importsEdit
From late 1942 high-ranking government officials and military officers made repeated requests for food imports, but the British War Cabinet either rejected these outright or reduced them to a fraction of the original amount. Although Viceroy Linlithgow began making appeals in mid-December 1942, he did so with assurances that the military would be given preference over civilians when the imports were distributed.[AD] Early in January the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery sent the first of many requests to the UK for food aid. Rather than mentioning worsening conditions in the countryside, Amery stressed that Calcutta's industries must be fed or its workers would return to the countryside. Rather than meeting this request, the UK promised a relatively small amount of wheat that was specifically intended for western India (that is, not for Bengal) in exchange for an increase in rice exports from Bengal to Ceylon.
The tone of Linlithgow's warnings to Amery grew increasingly serious over the coming months, as did Amery's requests to the War Cabinet; on 4 August 1943[AE] – less than three weeks before The Statesman's graphic photographs of starving famine victims in Calcutta would focus the world's attention on the severity of the crisis – Amery noted the spread of famine, and specifically stressed the effect upon Calcutta and the potential effect on the morale of European troops. The cabinet again offered only a relatively small amount, explicitly referring to it as a token shipment.
A similar cycle of refusal continued through 1943 and into 1944, The explanation for these repeated refusals was insufficient shipping, particularly in light of Allied plans to invade Normandy. The Cabinet also refused offers of food shipments from several different nations.[AF] When such shipments did begin to increase modestly in late 1943, the transport and storage facilities were understaffed and inadequate.[AG]
Famine, disease, and the death tollEdit
It is not possible to assign a definitive starting date to the actual onset of the famine, particularly since different districts in Bengal were affected at different times and to considerably varying degrees. The Government of India dated the beginning of a food crisis to the consequences of the air raids on Calcutta in December 1942, and the beginning of full-scale famine to May 1943 as the consequence of price decontrol two months earlier. In some districts, the food crisis began as early as mid-1942, but the rural poor were able to draw upon various coping strategies[AH] for a few months. Some then felt the signs of incipient famine as early as December 1942, when reports from commissioners and district officers of various districts in Bengal began to cite a "sudden and alarming" inflation, nearly doubling the price of rice; this was followed in January by reports of distress over serious food supply problems. In May 1943, six districts – Rangpur, Mymensingh, Bakarganj, Chittagong, Noakhali and Tipperah – were the first to report deaths by starvation. Chittagong and Noakhali, both "boat denial" districts in the Ganges Delta (or Sundarbans Delta) area, were the hardest hit. Dyson (1991) dates the beginning of the famine's excess mortality to the following month. Deaths began showing up later in other geographical areas; some districts of Bengal, however, were relatively less affected throughout the crisis. Although no demographic or geographic group was completely immune to increased rates of death by disease, only the rural poor died of starvation.
The famine saw two waves of excess mortality. In the first wave, victims of starvation filled the emergency hospitals in Calcutta and accounted for more than half of deaths in various districts. Death by starvation occurred most notably through November 1943. Disease began its sharp upward turn around October 1943 and overtook starvation as the most common cause of death around December. The two trends overlapped briefly in the closing months of the year. Disease-related mortality then continued to take its toll through early-to-mid 1944.
Malaria was the biggest killer. From July 1943 through June 1944, the monthly death toll from malaria stood at an average of 125% over rates from the previous five years; in December 1943, the excess mortality was 203% over average. Malaria parasites were found in nearly 40% of blood samples examined at Calcutta hospitals during the peak period, November and December 1943, and in nearly 52% in the same period in 1944. Moreover, since its symptoms often resemble those of other fatal fevers (such as kala-azar) and since only a small proportion of victims received medical care and were examined, statistics for malaria deaths are almost certainly underestimated.
Dysentery and diarrhea result directly from famine, typically through consumption of poor-quality food or deterioration of the digestive system caused by malnutrition. Cholera affected areas near the onset of the famine – carried by escapees from Burma and erupted in the wake of the October cyclone and flooding. Statistics for cholera and smallpox are probably more reliable than those for malaria, since their symptoms are more easily recognisable.
Contemporary mortality statistics are unreliable, particularly for the rural areas. They were usually collected by illiterate and underpaid village watchmen, whose methods were unreliable even in normal times. Many of those who died or migrated were unreported.
Although infants, young children and the elderly are usually more susceptible to the effects of starvation and disease, adults and children aged 10–14 suffered the highest proportional mortality rises. The rate of female infant death was higher than for males, yet males suffered higher rates overall and in every other age range. The relatively protected status of females of child-bearing age may have resulted in part from fertility decreases brought on by malnutrition, which in turn reduced maternal deaths. The higher death rates for female infants held true in both urban and rural areas, perhaps reflecting a discriminatory bias. Other age- and sex-related statistics were inverted in urban Bengal, perhaps because the cities attracted large numbers of very young and very old migrants seeking food relief. However, there were no differences in the death rates for the sexes in urban areas.
Regional differences in mortality rates were influenced by several factors, including the effects of migration and of natural disasters immediately prior to the onset of the famine. In general, excess mortality was higher in the east, even though the relative shortfall in the rice crop was worst in the western districts of Bengal. Eastern districts were relatively densely populated (and incidentally had higher Muslim populations), were closest to the Burma war zone, and normally ran grain deficits in pre-famine times. These also were subject to the boat denial policy and had relatively high jute production. Workers in eastern districts were more likely to receive monetary wages than payment in kind with a portion of the harvest, unlike in the western districts. When prices rose sharply, their wages failed to follow suit; this drop in real wages left them less able to purchase food.
The following table, excerpted from Maharatna (1992, p. 243) shows trends in excess mortality for 1943–44 as compared to prior non-famine years. Death rates are with respect to the population in 1941. Percentages for 1943–44 are of excess deaths as compared to rates from 1937–41, while those for 1937–41 are with respect to the average annual deaths of that period.
|Cause of death||Pre-famine
Overall, the table shows the dominance of malaria as the cause of death throughout the famine. Though excess mortality due to malarial deaths peaked in December 1943, rates remained high throughout the following year. Scarce supplies of quinine (the most common malaria medication) were very frequently diverted to the black market. Advanced anti-malarial drugs such as mepacrine (Atabrine) were distributed almost solely to the military and to "priority classes"; DDT (then relatively new and considered "miraculous") and pyrethrum were sprayed only around military installations. Paris Green was used as an insecticide in some other areas. This unequal distribution of anti-malarial measures may explain a lower incidence of malarial deaths in population centres, where the greatest cause of death was "all other" (probably migrants dying from starvation).
Deaths from dysentery and diarrhea peaked in December 1943, the same month as for malaria. Cholera deaths peaked in October 1943 but receded dramatically in the following year, brought under control by a vaccination program overseen by military medical workers. A similar smallpox vaccine campaign started later and was pursued less effectively; smallpox deaths peaked in April 1944. "Starvation" was generally not listed as a cause of death at the time; many deaths by starvation may have been listed under the "all other" category. Here the death rates rather than percentages reveal the peak in 1943.
The two waves – starvation and disease – also interacted and amplified one another, increasing the excess mortality. Widespread starvation and malnutrition first compromised immune systems, and reduced resistance to disease led to death by opportunistic infections. Second, the social disruption and dismal conditions caused by a cascading breakdown of social systems brought mass migration, overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor water quality and waste disposal, increased vermin, and unburied dead. All of these factors are closely associated with the increased spread of infectious disease.
Despite the organised and sometimes violent civil unrest just prior to the famine, there was no organised rioting when the famine took hold. Families disintegrated, with cases of wives and children being abandoned, child-selling, infanticide, and both voluntary and forced prostitution. Lines of small children begging could stretch for miles outside of cities; at night, children could be heard "crying bitterly and coughing terribly ... in the pouring monsoon rain ... stark naked, homeless, motherless, fatherless and friendless. Their sole possession was an empty tin". A schoolteacher in Mahisadal witnessed "children picking and eating undigested grains out of a beggar's diarrheal discharge". Author Freda Bedi wrote that it was "not just the problem of rice and the availability of rice. It was the problem of society in fragments."
Mass migration and family dissolutionEdit
The famine fell hardest by far on the rural poor. As the distress continued, families progressed through a series of increasingly irreversible coping strategies. First, they reduced their food intake and began to sell jewelry, ornaments, and smaller items of personal property. Expenses for food or burials became more urgent, and the items sold became larger and less replaceable – livestock, farming tools, the roof or doors of the house. Finally, families disintegrated. Men sold their small farms and left home to look for work or to join the army, and women and children became homeless migrants, often travelling to Calcutta or another large city in search of organised relief:
Husbands deserted wives and wives husbands; elderly dependents were left behind in the villages; babies and young children were sometimes abandoned. According to a survey carried out in Calcutta during the latter half of 1943, some breaking up of the family had occurred in about half the destitute population which reached the city.
Although the majority of the rural poor remained in their villages, sometime near July 1943 hundreds of thousands began a "terrible wandering in search of food... with hordes of people moving in the general direction of Calcutta because of vague rumours that food was to be had there." In Calcutta, evidence of the famine was "... mainly in the form of masses of rural destitutes trekking into the city and dying on the streets". Estimates of the number of the sick who flocked to Calcutta and wandered its streets ranged between 100,000 and 150,000. The Famine Commission Report described these wandering Bengalis in detail:[AI]
Thousands ﬂocked into towns and cities... The wandering famine victims readily fell a prey to disease and spread disease in their wanderings... moral sense [was] lost. In their distress they often sank to sub-human levels and became helpless and hopeless automata guided only by an instinctive craving for food.
Once they left their rural villages in search of food, their outlook for survival was grim: "Many died by the roadside – witness the skulls and bones which were to be seen there in the months following the famine."
Increased vermin and undisposed deadEdit
The disposal of corpses became a problem for the government and the public. The sheer number overwhelmed cremation houses, burial grounds, and those collecting and disposing of the dead: "We couldn't bury them or anything. No one had the strength to perform rites. People would tie a rope around the necks and drag them over to a ditch." Corpses were stacked along the streets of Calcutta, tossed by the tens of thousands into sources of drinking water, and left to rot and putrefy in nearly any open space. The bodies were picked over by vultures and dragged away by jackals. Sometimes this happened even before the victims had fully expired. The sight of corpses beside canals, ravaged by dogs and jackals, was common; during a seven-mile boat ride in Midnapore in November 1943, a journalist counted at least five hundred such sets of skeletal remains along the banks of a canal. Jackals would also attack the small and weak among those still living. The levels of putrefaction, contamination, and vermin infestation were so overwhelming by late 1943 that the weekly newspaper Biplabi stated:
Bengal is a vast cremation ground, a meeting place for ghosts and evil spirits, a land so overrun by dogs, jackals and vultures that it makes one wonder whether the Bengalis are really alive or have become ghosts from some distant epoch.
Exploitation of women and childrenEdit
One of the classic symptoms of famine is that it tends to intensify the exploitation of women; sales of women and girls, for example, tend to increase. Even before the famine, sexual exploitation of poor, rural, lower-caste and tribal women by the jotedars had at times been socially sanctioned, and during the crisis, women turned to prostitution in great numbers:
A section of the contractors has made a profession of selling girls to the military. There are places in Chittagong, Comilla and Noakhali where women sell themselves literally in hordes, and young boys act as pimps for the military. 
When taken up voluntarily, this survival strategy was not only for the women's own sakes but also, in many cases, for their children's survival, and often with regular meals as the only payment. Added to this number were the women and girls pushed involuntarily into the sex trade. In late 1943, entire boatloads of girls for sale were reported in ports of East Bengal. Families sent their young girls to wealthy landowners overnight in exchange for very small amounts of money or rice or sold them outright into prostitution; girls were sometimes enticed with sweet treats and kidnapped by pimps. Very often, these girls lived in constant fear of injury or death, but the brothels were their sole means of survival. Over the longer term, any woman who had chosen or been forced to become a prostitute could not expect any social acceptance or a return to her home or family. Such women became permanent outcastes in a society that valorised female chastity.
In addition to the tens of thousands of children who were orphaned, many were victimised by their own mothers and fathers. They were sold for trifling amounts of cash or for unhusked rice: as much as two maunds, around 74 kilograms (163 lb), or as little as one seer, 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). Sometimes they were purchased as household servants, where they would "grow up as little better than domestic slaves". They were also purchased by sexual predators. Children were abandoned by the roadsides or at orphanages, dropped down wells, thrown into rivers, or buried alive.
Another severe hardship of the crisis – the "cloth famine" – left nearly the entire population of the poor in Bengal naked or clothed in scraps through the winter. The British military consumed nearly all the textiles produced in India by purchasing Indian-made boots, parachutes, uniforms, blankets, and other goods at steep discount rates. The relatively small proportion of materials left over for civilian use were purchased by speculators for sale to civilians, subject to similarly steep inflation. With the supply of cloth crowded out by commitments to Britain and price levels held captive by profiteering, anyone who was not among the "priority classes" faced increasingly dire scarcity:
The robbing of graveyards for clothes, disrobing of men and women in out of way places for clothes ... and minor riotings here and there have been reported. Stray news has also come that women have committed suicide for want of cloth ... Thousands of men and women ... cannot go out to attend their usual work outside for want of a piece of cloth to wrap round their loins.
Many women "took to staying inside a room all day long, emerging only when it was [their] turn to wear the single fragment of cloth shared with female relatives."
The famine lead to widespread unsanitary conditions, catastrophic hygiene standards, and the spread of disease. The general disruption of many core elements of society brought an acute breakdown of sanitary conditions. The "cloth famine" saw a scarcity of clean clothing. Disposal of corpses in rivers and water supplies contaminated drinking water. Large scale migration led to the abandonment of the utensils and facilities necessary for washing clothes or preparation food. Many people drank contaminated rainwater from streets and open spaces where others had urinated or defecated. Conditions did not improve for those under medical care:
Conditions in certain famine hospitals at this time ... were indescribably bad ... Visitors were horrified by the state of the wards and patients, the ubiquitous filth, and the lack of adequate care and treatment ... [In hospitals all across Bengal, the] condition of patients was usually appalling, a large proportion suffering from acute emaciation, with 'famine diarrhoea' ... Sanitary conditions in nearly all temporary indoor institutions were very bad to start with ...
Until the military assumed control of relief efforts in September 1943, government aid seldom provided much help to the rural poor, directing most of its cash and grain supplies instead to the relatively wealthy landowners and urban bhadraloks. After an initial spate of humanitarian aid for the cyclone-stricken areas around Midnapore in October 1942, the government response was slow, and relief efforts were very limited until April 1943.[AJ] The response was slowed both by a failure to grasp the nature and scope of the problem and by political factors brought on by a public propaganda campaign declaring "sufficiency" in Bengal's rice supply, denying that there had been any significant crop shortfall, and blaming rising prices on war profiteering and hoarding.[AK] In April, more cash and grain began to flow to the outlying areas, but relief efforts were misdirected. Famine relief came in three major forms: agricultural loans (for the purchase of paddy seed, plough cattle, and maintenance expenses), gratuitous relief, and test works.[AL] Agricultural loans offered no assistance to the large numbers of rural poor who had little or no land. Grain relief was divided between cheap grain shops and the open market, with far more going to the markets. Supplying grain to the markets was intended to lower grain prices, but did not accomplish that aim, instead putting rural poor in direct competition with wealthier Bengalis at greatly inflated prices. As the depth and scope of the famine became unmistakable, the government began setting up gruel kitchens in August 1943; the gruel, which often provided barely a survival-level caloric intake, was sometimes unfit for consumption – moldy or contaminated with dirt, sand, and gravel.
There was rampant corruption and nepotism in the distribution of government aid; often as much as half of the goods supplied would disappear into the black market or the hands of friends or relatives.
Despite a long-established and detailed Famine Code that would have triggered a sizable increase in aid, and a statement privately circulated by the government in June 1943 that a state of famine might need to be formally declared, this never happened. Significant aid was not provided until the military took over crisis relief in October 1943, especially after November. In particular, grain was imported from the Punjab, and medical resources were made far more available. However, effective relief from the food crisis came from a record rice harvest that December.
Economic and political effectsEdit
The famine's aftermath greatly accelerated pre-existing socioeconomic processes leading to poverty and income inequality, severely disrupted important elements of Bengal's economy and social fabric, and ruined millions of families. The crisis overwhelmed and impoverished large segments of the economy. A key source of impoverishment was the widespread coping strategy of selling assets for food. As the famine wore on, nearly 1.6 million families—roughly one-quarter of smallholders and dwarfholders—sold or mortgaged their paddy lands, thus falling from the status of landholders to that of labourers.
This fall into lower income groups happened across a number of occupations. In absolute numbers, the hardest hit by post-famine impoverishment were women and landless agricultural labourers. In relative terms, those engaged in rural trade,[AM] fishing and transport (boatmen and bullock cart drivers) suffered the most. In absolute numbers, agricultural labourers faced the highest rates of destitution and mortality.
The "panicky responses" of the UK government in the wake of the fall of Burma had profound political consequences. "It was soon obvious to the bureaucrats in New Delhi and the provinces, as well as the GHQ (India)," wrote Bhattacharya (2002b), "that the disruption caused by these short-term policies—and the political capital being made out of their effects—would necessarily lead to a situation where major constitutional concessions, leading to the dissolution of the Raj, would be unavoidable." For example, nationwide opposition to the boat denial policy, as typified by Mahatma Gandhi's vehement editorials, helped strengthen the Indian independence movement, since the dispute "...galvanized both the Nationalist struggle in India and London's extreme response to the same, contributing significantly to the way that the 'Quit India' movement of 1942 played out."
Calcutta's two leading English-language newspapers were The Statesman (at that time a British-owned newspaper)[AN] and Amrita Bazar Patrika. In the early months of the famine, the government applied pressure on newspapers to "calm public fears about the food supply" and follow the official stance that there was no rice shortage. This effort had some success; The Statesman, published editorials asserting that the famine was due solely to speculation and hoarding, while "berating local traders and producers, and praising ministerial efforts."[AO] News of the famine was also subject to strict war-time censorship – even use of the word "famine" was prohibited – leading The Statesman later to remark that the UK government "seems virtually to have withheld from the British public knowledge that there was famine in Bengal at all".
Beginning in mid-July 1943 and more so in August, however, these two newspapers began publishing detailed and increasingly critical accounts of the depth and scope of the famine, its impact on society, and the nature of British, Hindu, and Muslim political responses. For example, a headline in Amrita Bazar Patrika that month warned "The Famine conditions of 1770 are already upon us," alluding to an earlier Bengal famine that caused the deaths of one third of Bengal's population. It also published an editorial cartoon showing starving peasants gazing at distant international food aid ships with the caption "A Mirage! A Mirage!" The Statesman's reportage and commentary were similarly pointed, as for example when it opined that the famine was "man-made".
A turning point in news coverage came on 22 August 1943, when The Statesman published a series of graphic photographs of the starvation and suffering. These "gruesome" images greatly affected both domestic and international perceptions and sparked an international media frenzy. Not only was the rest of the world unaware of the famine in Bengal before the photographs were published, many even in India itself had little idea of the scope of the social destruction. The photos of human suffering had a profound effect and marked "for many, the beginning of the end of colonial rule". The decision by editor Ian Stephens to publish the photographs and adopt a defiant editorial stance won accolades from many (including the Famine Inquiry Commission) and has been described as "a singular act of journalistic courage and conscientiousness, without which many more lives would have surely been lost". The photographs spurred Amrita Bazar Patrika and the Indian Communist Party's organ The People's War to publish similar images; the latter would make photographer Sunil Janah famous.
The famine has been dealt with in celebrated novels, films and art. The novel Ashani Sanket by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay is a fictional account of a young doctor and his wife in rural Bengal during the famine. It was adapted into a film of the same name (English title: Distant Thunder) by celebrated director Satyajit Ray in 1973. The film is listed in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. Also well-known are the novel So Many Hungers! (1947) by Bhabani Bhattacharya and the 1980 film Akaler Shandhaney by Mrinal Sen.
A Bengali play about the famine, Nabanna, was written by Bijon Bhattacharya and staged by the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1944 under the direction of Sombhu Mitra and later in 1948, by Bohurupee under the direction of Kumar Roy. IPTA also staged the play in several parts of the country and collected funds for famine relief in rural Bengal.
A contemporary sketch book of iconic scenes of famine victims, Hungry Bengal: a tour through Midnapur District in November, 1943 by Chittaprosad, was immediately banned by the British and 5,000 copies were seized and destroyed. One copy was hidden by Chittaprosad's family and is now in the possession of the Delhi Art Gallery. Another artist famed for his sketches of the famine was Zainul Abedin.
Debate over primary cause(s)Edit
Debate over the specific cause or causes of the famine hinge on factors such as when the nature and scope of the disaster were recognized, if enough food was available at the provincial or national level, and whether the failure of the colonial rulers was due to incompetence or insensitivity to Bengal's needs. The relative impact of each of these is still a matter of controversy. In addition to the complexity of the issues and the questionable accuracy of much of the available statistical data, a complicating factor is that the conclusions were highly politicised, which may have influenced the content and tone of the conclusions.[AP]
The question of when the famine should have been recognised is relevant to a discussion of the unreliable crop statistics. The 1942–43 Annual Report of the Indian Statistical Institute (1945, p. 107) asserts that the lack of reliable crop output statistics left the government effectively uninformed about the state of agricultural output, precluding any timely response. Others, however, have expressed doubts that the government was naive or "caught napping" when it rejected those statistics out of hand.
The question over degree of crop shortfall in late 1942 and its impact in 1943 has dominated the historiography of the Bengal famine.[AQ] The issue lies at the heart of a larger debate over the relative importance of food availability decline (FAD) versus the failure of exchange entitlements (FEE) as causes of famine.[AR] Both the FAD and FEE agreed that Bengal experienced at least some level of grain shortage in 1943 due to the loss of imports from Burma, damage from the cyclone, and brown spot infestation. However, FEE analyses do not consider it the main factor, while FAD-oriented scholars such as Bowbrick (1986), Alamgir (1980), Goswami (1990) and Collingham (2012) hold that a sharp drop in the food supply was the pivotal determining factor. Tauger (2003) and Padmanabhan (1973) in particular argue that the impact of brown spot disease was vastly underestimated, both during the famine and in later analyses. The signs of crop fungal infestation by Cochliobolus miyabeanus are subtle and given fraught circumstances, local officials would very likely have overlooked them.
Those adhering to FEE would argue that market failure – essentially inflation and the disruption of the grain market – converted a local shortage into a horrific famine. Scholars such as Cormac Ó Gráda, while asserting that there was indeed a significant food shortage (FAD), emphasise wartime priorities that drove the UK government and the provincial government of Bengal to make fateful decisions: the "denial policies", the use of heavy shipping for war supplies rather than food, the refusal to officially declare a state of famine, and the Balkanisation of grain markets through inter-provincial trade barriers. Others insist that the decline in workers' real wages through inflation was the key cause, exacerbated by a host of largely political factors, including prioritised distribution and abortive attempts at price control. Amartya Sen in particular attributes the most devastating periods of inflation to heavy speculative buying. The FAD-oriented analysis of Bowbrick (1985), however, disagrees.
Some FEE-based analyses suggest that the famine was a result of policy failure or bungling. Others assert that prioritised distribution and denial policies reflected the War Cabinet's willingness to "supply the Army's needs and let the Indian people starve if necessary". In this view, economic policies were designed to serve British military goals at the expense of Indian interests, and so the UK government bears moral responsibility for the rural deaths.[AS] The policies may have met their intended goals, but only at the cost of large-scale dislocations in the domestic economy. Far from being accidental, this argument maintains, these dislocations were fully recognised beforehand as fatal for identifiable Indian groups whose economic activities did not directly, actively, or adequately advance military goals. The analysts split into two broad camps: those who think the government unwittingly caused or was unable to respond to the crisis, and those who think it willfully ignored the plight of starving Indians. The former see the problem as a series of avoidable war-time policy failures and "panicky responses" from a government that was spectacularly inept, overwhelmed and in disarray, the latter as a conscious miscarriage of justice by the "ruling colonial elite" who abandoned the poor of Bengal.
A third argument, present since the days of the famine[AT] but expressed at length by Mukerjee (2011), accuses key figures in the UK government (particularly Prime Minister Winston Churchill)[AU] of genuine antipathy toward Indians and Indian independence – an antipathy arising mainly from a desire to protect imperialist privilege, but tinged also with racist undertones. This is attributed to British anger over widespread Bengali nationalist sentiments and the perceived treachery of the violent Quit India uprising. An example of the disagreement over this issue can be found in differing explanations of the War Cabinet's refusal to free shipping for the transport of grain to Bengal. For example, Collingham (2012, p. 153) opines that although the massive global dislocations of supplies caused by World War II virtually guaranteed that hunger would occur somewhere in the world, Churchill's animosity and even racism toward Indians decided the exact location where famine would fall. Mukerjee (2011, pp. 112–14; 273) makes a stark accusation:
The War Cabinet's shipping assignments made in August 1943, shortly after Amery had pleaded for famine relief, show Australian wheat flour traveling to Ceylon, the Middle east, and Southern Africa – everywhere in the Indian Ocean but to India. Those assignments show a will to punish.
In contrast, Tauger (2009, p. 193) strikes a far more supportive stance:
In the Indian Ocean alone from January 1942 to May 1943, the Axis powers sank 230 British and Allied merchant ships totaling 873,000 tons, in other words, a substantial boat every other day. British hesitation to allocate shipping concerned not only potential diversion of shipping from other war-related needs but also the prospect of losing the shipping to attacks without actually [bringing help to] India at all.
For their part, the Famine Commission Report absolved the imperial government from all major blame. It laid some responsibility at the feet of unavoidable fate, but reserved its most forceful finger-pointing for local politicians in the Government of Bengal:
But after considering all the circumstances, we cannot avoid the conclusion that it lay in the power of the Government of Bengal, by bold, resolute and well-conceived measures at the right time to have largely prevented the tragedy of the famine as it actually took place.
Some sources allege that the Famine Commission deliberately declined to blame the UK or was even designed to do so; however, Bowbrick (1985, p. 57) forcefully defends the report's accuracy. The attempt to shift blame to Indian officials began as early as 1943, as an editorial in The Statesman on 5 October noted disapprovingly.
A final line of blame-laying holds that major industrialists either caused or at least significantly exacerbated the famine through speculation, war profiteering, hoarding, and corruption – "unscrupulous, heartless grain traders forcing up prices based on false rumors".[AV] Working from an assumption that the Bengal famine claimed 1.5 million lives, the Famine Inquiry Commission made a "gruesome calculation" that "nearly a thousand rupees [£88 in 1944; equivalent to £3,557 or $1,223 in 2016] of profits were accrued per death". As the Famine Inquiry Commission put it: "a large part of the community lived in plenty while others starved ... corruption was widespread throughout the province and in many classes of society." British Field Marshal Viscount William Slim observed that "the horrible thing about Calcutta was the contrast of the blatant wealth of some of its citizens with the squalid misery, beyond mere poverty, at their very doors."
- Now part of Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura
- It also affected the neighbouring province of Orissa, albeit to a far smaller degree (Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 1, 144–45; Maharatna 1992, pp. 320–33). Orissa was hit by a cyclone on 10 April 1943. See (Pati 1999).
- This total, calculated by Maharatna (1992), reflects scholarly consensus (Ó Gráda 2007, p. 19). Initial official estimates of the Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, pp. 109–110) indicated around 1.5 million deaths in excess of the average mortality rate, out of Bengal's then estimated population of 60.3 million. The widely cited results of A. Sen (1980) and A. Sen (1981a, pp. 196–202) used a variety of means to arrive at an estimate of between 2.7 and 3 million; Greenough (1982, pp. 299–309) suggested that Sen's figures should be raised to between 3.5 and 3.8 million. See either Maharatna (1996) or Dyson & Maharatna (1991) for a detailed review of the data and the various estimates made.
- Some land produced more than one crop a year, sometimes rice in one season and other crops in another, reducing rice's yearly proportion of total crops sown (Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 10).
- Wheat was considered a staple by many in Calcutta, but nowhere else in Bengal (Knight 1954, p. 78). The wheat-eating enclave in Calcutta were industrial workers who had come there from other provinces (Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 31).
- Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, p. 4) describes the ratio of population to land in European terms: "The area of the province is 77,442 square miles, rather more than the area of England, Wales, and one-half of Scotland. The population is a little over 60 millions, which is well in excess of that of the [entire] United Kingdom, and not much less than the aggregate population of France, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark." Bengal's area was thus roughly comparable to the US state of Nebraska, but with 45% of the population of the entire US plus its territories as measured in 1940 (State Area 2010; 1940 Census).
- Census statistics were considerably more accurate than those for foodgrain production (Knight 1954, p. 22).
- In many regions of India, irrigated land constituted between 2 and 7% of the total cultivated land: "The failure of the colonial government to develop an irrigation system and increase land productivity had serious consequences for the aggregate output per worker" (Gupta 2012, pp. 22, 29).
- India's stagnant agricultural productivity has been attributed to various causes, including subinfeudation, ecological degradation of arable land, lack of either an adequate irrigation system (Natarajan 1946, p. 5) or an Industrial Revolution to drive economic and social change, and low investment in agricultural capital by landlords.
- Washbrook (1981, p. 670 note 78) suggests that Bengal may have reached this ecological constraint as early as 1860, far earlier than most of India.
- Colonial India at the time had four major land tenure systems: zamindari, mahalwari, ryotwari, and jagirdari, but the landholdings of Bengal were almost exclusively zamindar-owned. (Bekker 1951, pp. 319 & 326)
- For around nine months of every year, a large fraction of Bengal's population had access to an amount of palatable rice available for consumption that was roughly equivalent to the amount required for sustenance.
- For example, "[over] and above the half share of the product that was the customary rent, the jotedars commonly recovered grain loans with 50% interest and seed loans with 100% interest at the time of harvest... they [also] arbitrarily levied a wide variety of [extra charges]." (S. N. Mukherjee 1987, pp. 256–57)
- See in particular Government of Bengal (1940a, pp. 36–37) See also Iqbal (2010, chapter 5) and Ram (1997).
- Iqbal (2010, Chapter 7) suggests that the water hyacinth, a very rapidly growing invasive species, clogged waterways, reduced fish stocks, caused hardship to livestock due to its poor nutritional content, increased the incidence of water-borne epidemics and (in some areas) contributed to the partial shift away from the aman cultivar.
- The strong link between tube wells and arsenic poisoning was not established or suggested until the 1990s, see Argos et al. (2010, p. 252) and Chowdhury et al. (2000)
- "The usual supplies of rice from Burma, albeit a small proportion of aggregate consumption, were cut off."
- Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was a vital asset in the Allied war effort. It was "one of the very few sources of natural rubber still controlled by the Allies" (Axelrod & Kingston 2007, p. 220). It was further a vital link in "British supply lines around the southern tip of Africa to the Middle East, India and Australia". (Lyons 2016, p. 150) Churchill noted Ceylon's importance in maintaining the flow of oil from the Middle East, and considered its port of Colombo "the only really good base" for the Eastern Fleet and the defense of India. (Churchill 1986, pp. 152, 155 & 162)
- In late January 1943, for example, the Viceroy Linlithgow wrote to the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery: "Mindful of our difficulties about food I told [the Premier of Bengal, A. K. Fazlul Huq] that he simply must produce some more rice out of Bengal for Ceylon even if Bengal itself went short! He was by no means unsympathetic, and it is possible that I may in the result screw a little out of them. The Chief [Churchill] continues to press me most strongly about both rice and labour for Ceylon" (Mansergh 1971, p. 544, Document no. 362). Quoted in many sources, for example A. Sen (1977, p. 53), Ó Gráda (2008, pp. 30–31), Mukerjee (2011, p. 129), and J. Mukherjee (2015, p. 93).
- In the dissenting note of its member, Sir Manilal Nanavati, forced evacuation was thought to have affected 35,000 homesteads.
- At least two sources have suggested that the avowed objective of denying supplies to an invading Japanese army was less important than a covert goal of controlling available rice stocks and means of transport so the rice supplies could be directed toward the armed forces, see Iqbal (2010, p. 282) and De (2006, p. 12)
- The Ganges and its distributaries the Padma and Hooghly, the Brahmaputra and its distributaries the Jamuna and Meghna.
- "On 29 November 1941 the central government conferred, by notification, concurrent powers on the provincial governments under the Defence of India Rules (DIR) to restrict/prohibit the movement of food grains and also to requisition both food grains and any other commodity they considered necessary. With regard to food grains, the provincial governments had the power to restrict/stop, seize them and regulate their price, divert them from their usual channels of transportation and, as stated, their movement" (De 2006, p. 8).
- Note that this was not due to any shortage of wheat; on the contrary, the Punjab ran a huge surplus. A shortage of rice throughout India in 1941 caused foodgrain prices in general to rise. Agriculturalists in the Punjab wished to hold onto stocks to a small extent to cover their own rice deficit, but more importantly to profit from the price increases. To aid the rest of India in their domestic food purchases, the Government of India placed price controls on Punjabi wheat. The response was swift: so many wheat farmers held onto their stocks that wheat disappeared, and the Government of the Punjab began to assert that it now faced famine conditions (Yong 2005, pp. 291–94).
- The Famine Commission report of Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, p. 101) stated that "about two-thirds of the supplies of rice reaching Calcutta under the control of Government, much of which was secured from outside the province, was consumed in Greater Calcutta".
- See especially Ó Gráda (2015).
- Braund (1944) quotes the February 1943 evidence to the Second Food Conference on this. See also Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, p. 32)
- The findings of Padmanabhan (1973) are discussed at length in Tauger (2009, pp. 176–79).
- In this context, "carryover" is not the same as excess supply or "surplus". Rice stocks were typically aged for at least two or three months after harvest, since the grain became much more palatable after this period. This ongoing process of deferred consumption had been interrupted by a rice shortfall two years before the famine, and some speculate that supplies had not yet fully recovered. There is very considerable debate about the amount of carryover available for use at the onset of the famine. The debate began at the same time as did analyses of the crisis (Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 15, 35–36; 179–87 and has continued since (A. Sen 1977, pp. 47, 52; De 2006, p. 30; Mukerjee 2014, p. 73).
- Mukerjee (2011, p. 139) states: "At no recorded instance did either the [Bengal] governor or the viceroy express concern for their subjects: their every request for grain would be phrased in terms of the war effort. Contemporaries attested that Herbert cared about the starvation in Bengal; so prioritising the war effort may reflect his and Linlithgow's estimation of which concerns might possibly have moved their superiors."
- Ó Gráda (2015, p. 53) incorrectly gives the date as 31 July
- This topic is discussed at length in Mukerjee (2011, Chapter Nine, "Run Rabbit Run", pp. 191–218).
- See for example Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, pp. 223–25), Annexures I and II to Appendix V.
- "[W]hen crops begin to fail the cultivator [sells or barters]... his wife's jewelry, grain, cattle...[or reduces] his current food intake... Starving Indian peasants, once they fail in the market, forage in fields, ponds and jungles; they beg on a large scale; they migrate, often over long distances by travelling ticketless on the railways;... [and they] take shelter in the protection of a rural patron (Greenough 1980, pp. 205–07)
- The term "destitute" was routinely used in contemporary accounts to describe those impoverished during the famine, and frequently referred specifically to displaced individuals (i.e., "wandering victims"), see for example Famine Inquiry Commission (1945a, p. 2 note 1)
- For an analysis of government famine relief in Bengal in 1943, see Brennan (1988).
- See Ó Gráda (2015).
- Test works were essentially labour camps that offered food and perhaps a small amount of money in exchange for strenuous work; if enough people took the offer, then famine conditions were assumed. (J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 29; Guz 1989, p. 216). The types of labour at test works included "stone quarries, metal breaking units, [water] tank and road building schemes" (Bhattacharya 2002a, p. 103).
- "[In] Bengal there were tens of thousands of petty traders who bought [rice] from cultivators, and...[these commercial] relationships were highly personal" (J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 86).
- The Statesman was sold in 1962 to "a consortium of Indian industrialists" (Hirschmann 2004, p. 155)
- Note also that The Statesman was the only major newspaper that had acquiesced to (or been persuaded by) government pressure to present the Quit India movement in a negative light (Greenough 1983, p. 355, note 7; Greenough 1999, p. 43, note 7).
- Implicit in the attempt to distinguish between potential causes of any particular famine – natural disaster, economic crisis, or political pathology – is a further attempt to assign culpability, whether to natural forces, market failures, failure or malfeasance by governmental institutions, war profiteering or other unscrupulous acts by private business, or the victims themselves. These debates are both political and politicised. (Devereux 2000, pp. 21–26) See also Devereux (2010, p. 256) and Tauger (2009, p. 174)
- See for example A. Sen (1977), A. Sen (1981a), A. Sen (1981b), Bowbrick (1986), Goswami (1990), Tauger (2003), Islam (2007a) and Devereux (2010).
- The FAD explanation blames famine on crop failures brought on principally by crises such as drought, flood, or man-made devastation from war. The FEE account, as formulated by A. Sen (1977) and A. Sen (1981a), agrees that such external factors are often important, but holds that famine is primarily the interaction between pre-existing poverty (as a "structural vulnerability") with some shock event (such as war or political interference in markets) acting as a trigger (Devereux 2000, pp. 24–26). When these interact, some groups within society are unable to purchase or acquire food even when it is available. Current academic consensus adopts the FEE view for most modern famines (Indra & Buchignani 1997, p. 6).
- This imputed callousness was far from universal among the British in India; other British officials sharply criticised their own government, and were "keen to make amends" (Bhattacharya & Zachariah 1999, p. 89)
- See Greenough (1983) for contemporary incendiary rhetoric to this effect from the Nationalist paper Biplabi. As Greenough opines, "Biplabi hammered away at the argument that the British had deliberately fostered the famine... The fact that the famine originated in large part because of the government's disruption of the paddy market, and also because of the niggardliness of official relief, was terribly obvious to the inhabitants of Midnapur" (p. 375).
- For a discussion of sources that either blame Churchill and the Raj or elide Churchill's role entirely (see Hickman (2008)).
- See for example J. Mukherjee (2015, pp. 2–6).
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 73–74 & 77; A. Sen 1977, p. 36; A. Sen 1981a, pp. 55 & 215; S. Bose 1990, p. 701.
- Mishra 2000, p. 81; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 6–7.
- Patnaik 1991, p. 1.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 5.
- Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, p. 338.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 10.
- De 2006, p. 13; Bayly & Harper 2005, pp. 284–285.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 4 & 203.
- Islam 2007b, p. 185.
- Roy 2007, p. 240.
- Roy 2006, p. 5391.
- Desai 1972; Desai 1978.
- Islam 2007a, p. 433; Roy 2007.
- Washbrook 1981, p. 670.
- Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, p. 382; S. Bose 1982, p. 469.
- Mahalanobis 1944, p. 70.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 181; Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, p. 339; Islam 2007b, p. 56.
- Islam 2007a, p. 433; Islam 2007b, p. 56.
- Islam 2007a, p. 433.
- C. Bose 1930, pp. 96–101.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 12.
- Alamgir 1980, p. 79.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 16.
- Das 2008, p. 60.
- Cooper 1983, p. 230.
- Bhaduri 1973, p. 122.
- Ray & Ray 1975, p. 84; Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 9; Bhaduri 1973, p. 122; Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 9.
- Mukherji 1986; S. Bose 1982, p. 472–73; Bhaduri 1973, pp. 120–121.
- Ali 2012, p. 135–140.
- Chatterjee 1986, pp. 176–77.
- Abdullah 1980, p. 2.
- Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 4.
- S. Bose 1982, pp. 471–72; Ó Gráda 2009, p. 75.
- Chatterjee 1986, p. 179.
- Bhaduri 1973, p. 129.
- S. Bose 1982, p. 472–73; Bhaduri 1973, pp. 120–121; Das 2008, p. 60.
- Government of Bengal 1940b, p. 47; Ali 2012, p. 128; Roy 2006, p. 5393; S. Bose 1982, p. 469.
- Hunt 1987, p. 42.
- Government of Bengal 1940c, p. 30.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 4–10.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 90.
- Natarajan 1946, pp. 10–11; Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 5; Iqbal 2011, pp. 273–74; Mukerjee 2014, p. 73; Brennan 1988, p. 542 & 548, note 12.
- Mukerjee 2014, p. 73; Iqbal 2011, pp. 273–4.
- Iqbal 2010, p. 14–15.
- Kazi 2004, pp. 154–57; Iqbal 2010, chapter 6, see for example the map on page 187; Klein 1973.
- Iqbal 2010, p. 58, citing McClelland (1859, pp. 32 & 38).
- Hunt 1987, p. 127; Learmonth 1957, p. 56.
- Roy 2006, p. 5394.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 128.
- Bhaduri 1973, p. 136 note 1.
- Tauger 2009, pp. 194–95.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 206.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 98.
- Tinker 1975, p. 2.
- Tinker 1975, p. 8.
- Tinker 1975, pp. 9-10.
- Tinker 1975, p. 11.
- Tinker 1975, p. 12.
- Tinker 1975, p. 2,4.
- Wavell 2015, pp. 96-97.
- Wavell 2015, pp. 99-100.
- Iqbal 2011, pp. 273–4.
- Ó Gráda 2008, p. 20.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 23.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 28.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 29.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 103.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 703 & 715.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 187; Maharatna 1992, p. 206.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 23–24; 28–29; 103.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 24.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 131–132.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 150.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 213.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 214.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 27.
- Iqbal 2011, pp. 278–279.
- Lohman & Thompson 2012, p. 137.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 170–71; Greenough 1980, p. 222; J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 40–41; 110; 191.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 715; A. Sen 1977, p. 50; Iqbal 2011, p. 278.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 50.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 19–20.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 715.
- Rothermund 2002, pp. 115–122.
- Natarajan 1946, p. 49.
- Mukherji 1986, p. PE-25.
- Knight 1954, p. 101.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 25–26; Iqbal 2011; De 2006; Ó Gráda 2009, p. 154.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 61–63; Ghosh 1944, p. 52.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 13; De 2006, p. 13.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 26–27; A. Sen 1977, p. 45; Bayly & Harper 2005, pp. 284–285; Iqbal 2011, p. 274; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 66; De 2006, p. 13.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 9.
- Ó Gráda 2009; Brennan 1988, p. 542–43, note 3.
- Iqbal 2011, p. 272; S. Bose 1990, p. 717.
- Bayly & Harper 2005, pp. 284–285.
- De 2006, p. 13.
- Greenough 1982, p. 89, citing "Army Proposal of 23 April submitted to Chief Civil Defense Commissioner, Bengal" in Pinnell (1944, p. 5); J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 9.
- Iqbal 2011, p. 276.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 67–74; Bhattacharya 2013, pp. 21–23.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 16 & 19.
- Knight 1954, p. 279; Yong 2005, pp. 291–94.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 32.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 23 & 193.
- Knight 1954, p. 280.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 24; Knight 1954, pp. 48 & 280.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 16–17.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 51; Brennan 1988, p. 563.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 717.
- Bhattacharya & Zachariah 1999, p. 77.
- Bhattacharya 2002a, p. 39; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 42.
- Prayer 2001, pp. 5–6;15–16.
- Greenough 1982; Brennan 1988, pp. 559–60.
- Slim 2000, p. 177.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 30, citing an August 1942 letter from the Government of Bengal to the Bengal Chamber of Commerce.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 101.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 30; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 40.
- Ó Gráda 2010, p. 36; Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 12; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 86.
- Bhattacharya 2002b, p. 101.
- Bhattacharya 2002b, p. 102.
- Stein 2010, pp. 341-42.
- Stein 2010, p. 341.
- Bayly & Harper 2005, pp. 244-245.
- Low 2002, p. 339.
- Bayly & Harper 2005, p. 247.
- Bayly & Harper 2005, p. 248.
- Brown 1994, p. 321.
- Bandyopadhyay 2004, p. 418.
- Chakrabarty 1992a, p. 791; Chatterjee 1986, pp. 180–81.
- Bandyopadhyay 2004, pp. 418–19.
- De 2006, pp. 2, 5.
- Bayly & Harper 2005, p. 286.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 104.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 33.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 34.
- A. Sen 1977, pp. 36 & 38.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 58.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 38.
- A. Sen 1976, p. 1280.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 112; Aykroyd 1975, p. 74; Iqbal 2011, p. 282.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 55 & 98.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 111.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 55–58.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 52; A. Sen 1977, p. 51.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 36; S. Bose 1990, pp. 716–17.
- Ó Gráda 2007, p. 10.
- Padmanabhan 1973, pp. 11 & 23; as cited in (Tauger 2003, Tauger 2009, and Iqbal 2010.
- Brennan 1988, p. 543.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 32, 65, 66, 236.
- Brennan 1988, p. 552 note 14.
- Brennan 1988, p. 548.
- Greenough 1982, pp. 93–96.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 111–112.
- Mahalanobis 1944, p. 71; Mansergh 1971, p. 357.
- Mahalanobis 1944, p. 71.
- Mahalanobis 1944, p. 72.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 34, 37; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 40.
- Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 12.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 34, 37.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 2–3; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 12; Mahalanobis 1944, p. 71.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 39; A. Sen 1981a, p. 58.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 15.
- Rothermund 2002, p. 119.
- De 2006, p. 34.
- Aykroyd 1975, p. 73 & 113.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 50, citing Braund (1944).
- Blyn 1966, p. 253–54. As cited in Islam (2007a, pp. 423–24); Tauger (2009, p. 174).
- A. Sen 1981b, p. 441.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 92–93.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 57.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 122–123; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 53.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 53, citing Mansergh & Lumby 1973, Documents 59, 71, 72, 74, 98, 139, 157, 207 & 219.
- Mansergh & Lumby 1973, pp. 133–41; 155–58; A. Sen 1977, p. 52; J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 128, 142, 185–88.
- Collingham 2012, p. 152.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 174.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 40–41.
- Brennan 1988, p. 555.
- Corbett 1988.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. Appendix VI, Extracts of Reports from Commissioners and District Officers, pp. 225–27.
- Maharatna 1993, p. 4.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 2.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 116.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 210.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 701; Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 116.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 118.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 1.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 116; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 194.
- Ghedin et al. 1997, p. 530.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 119.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 120; Ó Gráda 2007, p. 21–22.
- Tinker 1975, pp. 2–3; 11–12.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 42.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 108–9.
- Maharatna 1992, pp. 263–64.
- Dyson 1991, p. 284.
- Maharatna 1992, pp. 260 & 263.
- Maharatna 1992, pp. 270.
- Maharatna 1992, pp. 262–63.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 279.
- Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 13.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 87.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 90.
- Ó Gráda 2009, p. 146; S. Bose 1990, p. 711.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 243, Table 5.5.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 268.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 137–38.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 137–38; J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 142 & 174.
- Bhattacharya 2002a, p. 102.
- Maharatna 1992, pp. 249 & 251.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 268; Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 136.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 136–37.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 240.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 41 & 251.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 378.
- Mokyr & Ó Gráda 2002, pp. 340–14; J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 128–29.
- Greenough 1982, p. 141, 163; Shears 1991, pp. 245–246; Dirks 1980, p. 24,note 9; de Waal 1990, p. 481; Watkins & Menken 1985, p. 650.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 68.
- Greenough 1980, pp. 225–33; Ó Gráda 2009, pp. 59–63.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 170; 186–87.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 248.
- Bedi 1944, p. 13.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 67; Greenough 1980, pp. 227–28; Iqbal 2011, p. 281.
- Brennan 1988, p. 547.
- Aykroyd 1975, p. 74.
- A. Sen 1981b, p. 441; Das 1949.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 2; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 134, citing The Statesman "Policy of Repatriation of Destitutes," November 6, 1943; Schofield 2010, p. 304.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 109.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 229–230.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 239–40.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 236.
- Mukerjee 2011, pp. 157; 187.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 699, citing Biplabi, 7 November, 1943.
- Ray 2005, p. 397; Ó Gráda 2015.
- Cooper 1983, p. 248.
- B. Sen 1945, p. 29.
- Das 1949, p. 72.
- Greenough 1980, pp. 229.
- Bedi 1944, p. 87.
- Collingham 2012, p. 147–48.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 158; 183–86; Greenough 1982.
- Agarwal 2008, p. 162.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 166.
- Greenough 1980, p. 210.
- Greenough 1980, p. 231.
- Greenough 1980, p. 232.
- Greenough 1980, pp. 230–33; Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 68.
- Natarajan 1946; J. Mukherjee 2015.
- Mukerjee 2011, pp. 221–222.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 221.
- Mokyr & Ó Gráda 2002, p. 342.
- Das 1949, as cited in Ó Gráda 2015 pp. 102–3.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 138.
- Brennan 1988, p. 558.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 236.
- Brennan 1988, pp. 557–58.
- Brennan 1988, p. 552.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 29 & 174; De 2006, p. 40; Brennan 1988, p. 557 note 18.
- Brennan 1988, pp. 552, 555 & 557; Greenough 1982, p. 169; J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 174–75; Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 75.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 98–99; A. Sen 1977, p. 52.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, pp. 62–63, 75 & 139–40; Brennan 1988, p. 558.
- Bowbrick 1986, pp. 24–5.
- Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, p. 342.
- Greenough 1982.
- Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, pp. 339 and 365; Watkins & Menken 1985, p. 667.
- S. Bose 1993, p. 134, Table 8.
- Mahalanobis, Mukherjea & Ghosh 1946, p. 361 & 393.
- Maharatna 1992, p. 212.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 67–68; Ghosh 1944.
- A. Sen 1977; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 42.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 4.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 125.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 57, citing "Consequences of Untruth," Statesman, 12 October 1943.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 43.
- Ó Gráda 2015, pp. 9.
- Dutt 2013, p. 5.
- Ó Gráda 2015, pp. 5.
- Islam 2007a, p. 422, citing The Statesman, "Reflections on Disaster," 23 September 1943.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 175.
- Vernon 2009, p. 148.
- A. Sen 1977; Ó Gráda 2015, p. 42.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 42, note 13; p. 77, note 132.
- New York Times 2003.
- Lowe & Lloyd 1997, p. 438; Dharwadker 2005, p. 407.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, p. 139; Dhillon 2014, p. 54.
- Chittaprosad's Bengal Famine & 19 July 2011.
- Dhillon 2014, p. 54.
- Mukherji 1986, pp. PE22, PE25.
- Islam 2007a, p. 424.
- Tauger 2009, p. 178–79.
- Ó Gráda 2008, pp. 20 & 33.
- Greenough 1982, pp. 127–38; A. Sen 1977.
- A. Sen 1976, p. 1280; A. Sen 1977, p. 50; A. Sen 1981a, p. 76.
- Natarajan 1946, p. 25; A. Sen 1977, p. 52; Dyson 1991.
- Wavell 1973, pp. 68 & 122.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 716–17.
- Ó Gráda 2009, pp. 190–91.
- S. Bose 1990, p. 716.
- J. Mukherjee 2015, pp. 251–52.
- Brennan, Heathcote & Lucas 1984, p. 18.
- A. Sen 1977, p. 50; S. Bose 1990, p. 717.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 195.
- Ó Gráda 2015, p. 91.
- Ó Gráda 2009, p. 10.
- Mukerjee 2011, pp. 274–75.
- Mukerjee 2011, p. 273; Bayly & Harper 2005, p. 286; Collingham 2012, pp. 144–45.
- Ó Gráda 2008, p. 24, note 78.
- Ó Gráda 2015, pp. 39.
- Famine Inquiry Commission 1945a, p. 105.
- Ó Gráda 2008, p. 39; Rangasami 1985. Cited approvingly in (Osmani 1993) and (Mukerjee 2014, p. 71).
- Tauger 2009, p. 185.
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