[Model Answer QP2022 GS1]Why was there a sudden spurt in famines in colonial India since the mid-eighteenth century? Give reasons.

India was hit by recurrent famine from 1760 AD to till 1943 AD. As per British sources, there were more than 85 million Indians died in these famines which were in reality genocides done by the British Raj.

Famines in colonial India since the mid-eighteenth century

Famines Regions Affected
Great Bengal Famine of 1770Region: Bihar, Northern and Central Bengal
Chalisa famine of 1782–84Region: Delhi, Western Oudh, Eastern Punjab region, Rajputana, and Kashmir
Doji Bara famine or Skull famine of 1788–94  Region: Hyderabad, Southern Maratha country, Deccan, Gujarat, and Marwar
Agra famine of 1837–38Region: Central Doab and trans-Jumna districts of the North-Western Provinces
Upper Doab famine of 1860–61Region: Upper Doab of Agra; Delhi and Hissar divisions of the Punjab
Southern India famine of 1876–78Region: Madras and Bombay
Indian famine of 1896–97Region: Madras, Bombay Deccan, Bengal, United Provinces, Central Provinces.
Indian famine of 1899–1900Region: Madras, Bombay Deccan, Bengal, United Provinces, Central Provinces.
Bengal famine of 1943Region: Bengal

Reasons for Such Recurring Famines in the Colonial Era

Colonial policies:The colonial policies included rack-renting, levies for war, free trade policies, the expansion of export agriculture, and neglect of agricultural investment.
Commercialisation of AgricultureIndian exports of opium, indigo, jute, and cotton were a key component of the economy of the British empire, generating vital foreign currency. This affected food production in India.
Colonial Export PolicyPolicy of exporting Rice and WheatFor example, two of the worst famine-affected areas in the Madras Presidency, the districts of Ganjam and Vizagapatam, continued to export grains throughout the famine.
Apathetic Famine codes of the BritishBritish Codes were explicit in casting a duty on public officials to spend the minimum that was necessary, only to prevent the loss of lives, and nothing beyond that.Did not address non farm rural persons such as artisans, weavers etc. 
World wars and British expansionist wars around the worldIndian Grains were diverted to war expeditions in foreign soil.
Agrarian PoliciesThe Zamindari, Mahalwari and Ryotwari system pushed back agricultural production and led to agricultural backwardness.
The above conditions were worsened by a rapidly growing population, stagnant agricultural productivity, increased social stratification, and alienation of the peasant class from their landholdings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *