Monday, September 26, 2011

Famine I.

This is coolbert:

Famine - - Bengal.

"Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. - - Lamentations 4:9"

The Bengal famine of 1943. A little known episode of history, the results of which were a catastrophic loss of civilian life during a time of war, the number of those Indians perishing from the famine massive, in the millions, the exact total unclear. NOT dying from battle or combat but hunger, the result of policies, indifference, and just plain ineptitude. Bengal that area of Indian in the eastern part of the nation, the largest city in the area being Calcutta!

"The Bengal famine of 1943 . . . struck the Bengal province of pre-partition India. Estimates are that 1.5 to 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition and disease . . . The consensus is moving towards 2 million dead"

That figure of 2 million dead if correct and the most accurate, far exceeds the battlefield losses of British Indian Army troops fighting on all fronts during the Second World War [WW2].

Reading over the wiki entry for the "event", it seems that there IS NO ONE CONSENSUS OPINION AS TO WHY THE FAMINE, STARVATION AND DEATH OCCURRED. NO  overriding reason why this catastrophe transpired as it did. Everyone has his own opinion?

It should be recognized that this was not a deliberate and carefully planned effort to starve the people of Bengal. NOT pre-meditated and cold-blooded murder by the denial of food to those persons in need. Rather, death by callousness, the war effort, indifference and just plain ineptitude and stupidity.

As to the"cause" of the famine, the "experts" conclude:

"The proximate cause of the famine was a reduction in supply, with some increase in demand."

As to those other reasons for the famine as mentioned in the wiki entry:

1. Shortage from natural disaster.

"The winter 1942 ‘aman’ rice crop which was already expected to be poor or indifferent was hit by a cyclone and three tidal waves in October"

"A fungus hit the weakened crop and this was reported to have had an even greater effect on yield than the cyclone".

2. Shortage from lack of "carry over stocks" [that left over from the previous year crop was nil!].

"It was argued that the normal carry over stocks did not exist in Bengal"

3. Shortage of imported rice from Japanese occupied Burma.

"Bengal had been a food importer for the last decade. Calcutta was normally supplied by Burma. . . .. Burma was the world's largest exporter of rice in the inter-war period. By 1940 15% of India's rice overall came from Burma, while in Bengal the proportion was slightly higher given the province's proximity to Burma."

4. Shortages from an influx of refugees from Japanese occupied Burma.

"Bengal’s food needs rose at the same time from the influx of refugees from Burma."

5. Shortage of transport [the inability to move grain].

"British authorities feared a subsequent Japanese invasion of British India proper by way of Bengal (see British Raj) and a scorched earth policy was hastily implemented in the Chittagong region, nearest the Burmese border, to prevent access to supplies by the Japanese in case of an invasion. In particular, the Army confiscated many boats (and motor vehicles, carts and even elephants), fearing that the Japanese would commandeer them to speed an advance into India."

"The Indian Congress Party organized a campaign of bombing and sabotage of railways going to Eastern Bengal"

6. Shortage due to high food prices, those least able to pay now were now less able.

"Food prices were high in mid-1942, reflecting the belief that India was in deficit."

7. Shortage due to administrative malfeasance and ineffectiveness.

"Lack of statistics was an important cause of the failure to recognize and tackle the famine"

"trade barriers were introduced by the democratically elected Provincial governments"

"The failure to set up a food administration in 1939 and prepare for rationing was the key failure."

8. Food being exported during a time of famine.

"India as a whole probably had a deficit, but exported small quantities to meet the urgent needs of the Indian Army abroad, and those of Ceylon"

[we have to be clear here. "India as a whole" had a slight food deficit, "as a whole" to include crops of wheat and rice combined. Those persons of Bengal predominantly rice eaters, the rest of India being predominantly wheat eaters. That "total" crop of rice and wheat combined.]

9. Shortage from lack of imports from foreign nations.

"Starvation could have been reduced towards the end of 1943 if people in other countries had made it available."

"Shipping could not be spared for India [foreign supplies lacking]"

[Churchill in particular denied merchant shipping, it being thought that all resources at the time needed to be concentrated for the Normandy invasion!]


* If the historians and "experts" cannot agree on a definitive answer as to the "cause" of this famine, ask yourself what the average citizen and casual observer is to make of the situation!

* I would suspect that the vast majority of those deaths during the famine were of those persons least able to endure the starvation, malnutrition and lack of food. The old, the very young, those adults already sick with some sort of illness or those adults susceptible in some manner to disease or sickness, etc.

* You can speculate too that those most senior British military commanders in the area either were indifferent to the plight of the Bengali or even saw the lack of food as a means to stymie further Japanese advance. NO food for the Bengali NONE either for the Japanese. That Japanese soldier on the offensive, while advancing, carrying only one to two days of rations and EXPECTED BY DOCTRINE to sustain himself on CAPTURED FOOD!!

* It is generally understood that the Second World War was the first conflict where the number of civilian deaths was far in excess of those military personnel killed in combat on the battlefield. Count among the many tens of million civilian deaths during the war those of the Bengal Famine!


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