Chhappania Akal 1899-1900

In 1896, the rainfall was less than the normal rainfalls. This was an El Niño year, the years in which the monsoon rainfall was considerably less than average, because of the El Niño. In 1897 the rains were sufficient but in the next year 1897-98, the rains were profuse, but again 1899 was an El Niño year. This was the worst year in which rainfall fell to 60-65%. (Normal rain 45 Inch, this year rains 33 Inches, deficiency 11 Inches).

The result of these two El Niño Years 1896 & 1899 was that in October 1897 Three Lakh square miles of the population of the Agra, Oudh, Bengal and the Central Provinces got affected. In November 1900, the Bombay Presidency, Central Provinces, Rajputana, etc. got caught in the grip of the famine. This was three and half times of the area affected previously. The famine claimed 90-100 Lakh lives, most severely affected were Bombay Presidency as per the official figures and Rajputana as per the unofficial figures. Since the famine of 1899-1900 was in the Vikrami Samvat 1956, it is known as Chhappania Akal or Chhappania Kal. 

The El Niño year follow by El Niño+1 year in which the normal rainfalls are higher. The result was the famine was followed by epidemic , malaria & cholera and the severity of the famine was so bad that the tribals of Rajputana, Madhya Pradesh (central Provinces) , Gujarat (Bombay Presidency), Hissar and other places died in thousands. The tragedy is still sung in the folk songs of these areas.

The famine relief in the British Provinces was organized by the Government of Lord Curzon and around 25% of the affected people were relieved as per the official figures, but the native princes of Rajputana and Gujarat who were autonomous failed to curb the death toll. The Government spent Rs. 170 Lakh and Rs. 130 Lakh in the famines of 1897 and 1900. This Chhappania Akal is the most widespread recorded in Indian history. Though, it was not as acute as the Orissa famine of 1866 or as fatal as the terrible Bengal famine of 1770, yet the progress of the media, invention and spread of Photography and the means of communication made it the most popular famine of India.

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