"The Bengal famine of 1943 was a result of several malign natural and man-made factors." Discuss.

Bengal province of British India witnessed famine in 1943 during the time of World War II. Many people died of starvation, malaria, and other diseases due to malnutrition, population displacement, unsanitary conditions, and lack of adequate health care. As the consequences several families disintegrated; small farms sold their property and left home to join the British Indian Army, women and children became homeless.

Factors

  • The Japanese campaign for Burma witnessed a march of more than half of the one million Indians from Burma for India. About five lakhs refugees reached India and in later months they were affected with serious epidemics like smallpox, malaria, cholera, dysentery. The demand for food was increased. The movement of foodgrains for trading was stuck and the failure of government policies enhanced the problem of the food crisis.
  • In early 1943, an abrupt upward turn was noticed in the inflation rate for foodgrains. Urgent need for housing for workers and soldiers since 1942 was responsible for worsening the problem.
  • The Denial policies played a significant role in political ramifications. The small traders who relied on boat transport to carry goods to the market were offered no financial help. No compensation was provided for the maintenance of the confiscated boats.
  • During the mid-1942, several Indian provinces and princely states started imposing inter-provincial trade barriers that restricted the trade of rice. Provinces like Punjab banned wheat export. Food insecurity got increased and demand for rice was increased that further created shortage.
  • In July 1942, in line with the increase in food prices, the possibilities of famine became apparent. The Bengal Chamber of Commerce formulated a scheme to provide goods and services to the workers of industries with high priority. But the rural laborers, civilians were excluded from having the facilities of food access, health care.

Comment

Apart from that civil unrest, price chaos, natural disasters, mismanagement in crop forecasting, crop shortfall, failure of land distribution also make the famine inevitable. Woodhead Commission was appointed after the Bengal Famine of 1943. It recommended for setting up of All India Food Council.

Question for UPSC Mains:
“The Bengal famine of 1943 was a result of several malign natural and man-made factors.

Published: October 27, 2015 | Modified:September 20, 2020

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