Famine in India

Famine in India image

Victims of the Great Famine of 1876–78 in India, pictured in 1877.

Famine had been a recurrent feature of life in the Indian sub-continental countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, most accurately recorded during British rule. Famines in India resulted in more than 60 million deaths over the course of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Famines in British India were severe enough to have a substantial impact on the long-term population growth of the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on climate: a favorable southwest summer monsoon is critical in securing water for irrigating crops. Droughts, combined with policy failures, have periodically led to major Indian famines, including the Bengal famine of 1770, the Chalisa famine, the Doji bara famine, the Great Famine of 1876–1878, and the Bengal famine of 1943. Some commentators have identified British government inaction as a contributing factor to the severity of famines during the time India was under British rule. Famine largely ended by the start of the 20th century with the 1943 Bengal famine being an exception related to complications during World War II. The 1883 Indian Famine Codes, transportation improvements, and changes following independence have been identified as furthering famine relief. In India, traditionally, agricultural laborers and rural artisans have been the primary victims of famines. In the worst famines, cultivators have also been susceptible.

Railroads built for the commercial goals of exporting food grains and other agricultural commodities only served to exacerbate economic conditions in times of famine. However by the 20th century, the extension of the railroad by the British helped put an end to the massive famines in times of peace.

The last major famine was the Bengal famine of 1943. A famine occurred in the state of Bihar in December 1966 on a much smaller scale and in which "Happily, aid was at hand and there were relatively fewer deaths". The drought of Maharashtra in 1970–1973 is often cited as an example in which successful famine prevention processes were employed. In 2016–2018, 194 million of 810 million undernourished people globally...read more

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