Famine+ had been a recurrent feature of life in the Indian sub-continent+al countries of India+, Pakistan+ and Bangladesh+, and reached its numerically deadliest peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The Odisha+ famine of 1866–67, which later spread through the Madras Presidency+ to Hyderabad+ and Mysore+, was one such famine. The large-scale loss of life due to the series of famines between 1860 and 1877 was the cause of political controversy and discussion which led to the formation of the Indian Famine Commission.
In 1874 the response from the British authorities was better and famine was completely averted. British famine policy in India was influenced by the arguments of Adam Smith+, as seen by the non-interference of the government with the grain market even in times of famines.
The Famine Commission of 1880 observed that each province in British India+, including Burma+, had a surplus of food grains, and that the annual surplus amounted to 5.16 million metric tons.
There was a threat of famine, but after 1902 there was no major famine in India until the Bengal famine of 1943+.
The failure to provide food to the millions who were hungry during the famines of the 1870s has been blamed both on the absence of adequate rail+ infrastructure and the incorporation of grain into the world market through rail and telegraph+. Rail transport, however, also played an essential role in supplying grain from food-surplus regions to famine-stricken ones. A famine weakens body resistance and leads to increases in infectious diseases, especially cholera, dysentery, malaria, and smallpox. The Bengal famine of 1943 reached its peak between July and November of that year, and the worst of the famine was over by early 1945. Any imports to alleviate the famine would have had to come from Australia, North America or South America. Since the Bengal famine of 1943, there has been a declining number of famines which have had limited effects and have been of short durations.
Deaths from starvation were reduced by improvements to famine relief mechanisms after the British left. In the twenty-year period between 1965–1985 gaps in infrastructure were bridged by the establishment of The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development+ (NABARD).
In 2001 the Government of India began working on an emergency plan to address regional food shortages after reports that bamboo flowering and bamboo death would occur again in the near future. Similar beliefs have been observed thousands of kilometres away in south India in the people of Cherthala+ in the Alappuzha+ district of Kerala+ who associate flowering bamboo with an impending explosion in the rat population.
The Bihar famine of 1966–7 was a minor famine with relatively very few deaths from starvation as compared to the famines of the British era. The Bihar drought of 1966–67 gave impetus to further changes in agricultural policy and this resulted in the Green Revolution. After several years of good monsoons and a good crop in the early 1970s, India considered exporting food and being self-sufficient. Large scale employment to the deprived sections of Maharashtrian society which attracted considerable amounts of food to Maharashtra. The drought of 1979–80 in West Bengal was the next major drought and caused a 17% decline in food production with a shortfall of 13.5 million tonnes of food grain. In March 2013, according to Union Agriculture Ministry+, over 11,801 villages in Maharashtra were declared drought affected+. Growing export prices, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers due to global warming, changes in rainfall and temperatures are issues affecting India. Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Famine in India+ Famine had been a recurrent feature of life in the Indian sub-continental countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and reached its numerically deadliest peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This website has been archived and is no longer updated.The content featured is no longer current and is being made available to the general public for research and historical information purposes only.
The First Fleet of 11 ships, each one no larger than a Manly ferry, left Portsmouth in 1787 with more than 1480 men, women and children onboard.
Discover the 1787 Draught Instructions for Governor Phillip that empowered Captain Arthur Phillip to establish a British Colony at Botany Bay, grant land and issue regulations to the Colony from 1788. The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission. About a quarter to a third of the population of Bengal starved to death in about a ten-month period. Keeping the famine relief as cheap as possible, with minimum cost to the colonial exchequer, was another important factor in determining famine policy.
The product of the Famine Commission was a series of government guidelines and regulations on how to respond to famines and food shortages called the Famine Code.

Davis notes that, "The newly constructed railroads, lauded as institutional safeguards against famine, were instead used by merchants to ship grain inventories from outlying drought-stricken districts to central depots for hoarding (as well as protection from rioters)" and that telegraphs served to coordinate a rise in prices so that "food prices soared out of the reach of outcaste+ labourers, displaced weavers, sharecroppers and poor peasants." Members of the British administrative apparatus were also concerned that the larger market created by railway transport encouraged poor peasants to sell off their reserve stocks of grain. The 1880 Famine Codes urged a restructuring and massive expansion of railways, with an emphasis on intra-Indian lines as opposed to the existing port-centred system.
Human response to famine could spread the disease as people migrated in search of food and work. Sen attributes this trend of decline or disappearance of famines after independence to a democratic system of governance and a free press—not to increased food production. In independent India, policy changes aimed to make people self-reliant to earn their livelihood and by providing food through the public distribution system+ at discounted rates.
During times of famines, droughts and other natural calamities, NABARD provides loan rescheduling and loan conversion facilitates to eligible institutions such as State Cooperative banks and Regional Rural Banks for periods up to seven years.
Earlier in 1963, the government of the state of Maharashtra asserted that the agricultural situation in the state was constantly being watched and relief measures were taken as soon as any scarcity was detected. The implementation of the Scarcity Manuals in the Bihar and Maharashtra famines prevented the mortality arising from severe food shortages.
Stored food stocks were leveraged by the government, and there was no net import of food grains. In Maharashtra+ alone, for example, there were around 45,000 childhood deaths due to mild or severe malnutrition in 2009, according to the ''Times of India''.
If agricultural production does not remain above the population growth rate, there are indications that a return to the pre-independence famine days is a likelihood.
La Pérouse met the British First Fleet and Aboriginal people at Botany Bay NSW on the 26th January 1788.
It was the Great Famine of 1876–78, however, that was the direct cause of investigations and the beginning of a process that led to the establishment of the Indian Famine code.
East India Company's raising of taxes disastrously coincided with this famine Following this famine, "Successive British governments were anxious not to add to the burden of taxation." The rains failed again in Bengal and Odisha+ in 1866. The famine during World War II+ lead to the development of the Bengal Famine Mixture+ (based on rice with sugar). According to Brian Murton, a professor of geography at the University of Hawaii, another possible impact on British policy on famine in India was the influence of the English Poor Laws+ of 1834, with the difference being that the English were willing to "maintain" the poor in England in normal times, whereas Indians would receive subsistence only when entire populations were endangered. These had to wait until the exit of Lord Lytton+ as viceroy, and were finally passed in 1883 under a subsequent more liberal-minded viceroy, Lord Ripon+.
These new lines extended the existing network to allow food to flow to famine-afflicted regions.
On the other hand, railways also had a separate impact on reducing famine mortality by taking people to areas where food was available, or even out of India.
According to the Irish economist and professor Cormac O Grada, priority was given to military considerations, and the poor of Bengal were left unprovided for.
Later famine threats of 1984, 1988 and 1998 were successfully contained by the Indian government and there has been no major famine in India since 1943. Between 1947–64 the initial agricultural infrastructure was laid by the founding of organisations such as the Central Rice Institute+ in Cuttack, the Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, and universities such as the Pant Nagar University+. Between 1985 and 2000, emphasis was laid on production of pulses and oilseed, as well as vegetables, fruits, and milk. On the basis of this, and asserting that the word famine had now become obsolete in this context, the government passed the "The Maharashtra Deletion of the Term 'Famine' Act, 1963". While the relief programme in Bihar was poor, Dreze calls the one in Maharashtra a model programme.
Policies of ''laissez faire'' were employed, which resulted in partial alleviation of the famine in Bengal. Lord Lytton established the Famine Insurance Grant, a system in which, in times of financial surplus, INR 1,500,000 would be applied to famine relief works.
This would later save tens of thousands of lives at liberated concentration camps such as Belsen+.
Similarities between the Irish famine of 1846–49 and the later Indian famines of the last part of the 19th century were seen. The Famine Commission of 1880 identified that the loss of wages from lack of employment of agricultural labourers and artisans were the cause of famines. Jean Dreze (1991) also finds that the necessary economic conditions were present for a national market in food to reduce scarcity by the end of the 19th century, but that export of food continued to result from that market even during times of relative scarcity. The Famine Commission of 1948 and economist Amartya Sen+ found that there was enough rice in Bengal to feed all of Bengal for most of 1943. The Battle of the Atlantic+ was at its peak from mid-1942 to mid-1943, with submarine wolf packs sinking so many ships that the Allies were on the verge of defeat, so shipping could not be spared for India.

The population of India was growing at 3% per year, and food imports were required despite the improvements from the new infrastructure . Rise in prices of food grains caused migration and starvation, but the public distribution system, relief measures by the government, and voluntary organisations limited the impact. The relief works initiated by the government helped employ over 5 million people at the height of the drought in Maharashtra leading to effective famine prevention. The lessons learnt from the Maharashtra and West Bengal droughts led to the Desert Development Programme and the Drought Prone Area Programme.
Here the Aboriginal people, who had lived in isolation for 40,000 years, met the British in an uneasy stand off at what is now known as Frenchmans Beach at La Perouse. Although this famine was preceded by a drought in the Madras Presidency, it was made more acute by the government's policy of ''laissez faire+'' in the trade of grain. The result was that the British prematurely assumed that the problem of famine had been solved forever. In both countries, there were no impediments to the export of food during times of famines. The Famine Code applied a strategy of generating employment for these sections of the population and relied on open-ended public works to do so.
The effectiveness of this system, however, relied on government provision of famine relief: "Railroads could perform the crucial task of moving grain from one part of India to another, but they could not assure that hungry people would have the money to buy that grain". Sen claimed the famine was caused by inflation, with those benefiting from inflation eating more and leaving less for the rest of the population. Mohan Ram of the University of Delhi+, who is one of the country's foremost authorities on bamboo, considered these techniques outlandish. On a number of occasions, the Indian-government sought food and grain from the United States to provide replacement for damaged crops.
The effectiveness of the Maharashtra was also attributable to the direct pressure on the government of Maharashtra by the public who perceived that employment via the relief works programme was their right.
The intent of these programmes was to reduce the negative effects of droughts by applying eco-friendly land use practices and conserving water.
For example, two of the worst famine-afflicted areas in the Madras Presidency, the districts of Ganjam+ and Vizagapatam+, continued to export grains throughout the famine.
Lessons learnt from the Irish famine were not seen in the correspondence on policy-making during the 1870s in India. At that time, annual exports of rice and other grains from India was approximately one million metric tons. The Indian Famine Code was used in India until more lessons were learnt from the Bihar famine+ of 1966–67.
The government also set up more than 20,000 fair-price stores to provide food at regulated prices for the poor or those with limited incomes. Major schemes in improving rural infrastructure, extending irrigation to additional areas, and diversifying agriculture were also launched.
These famines were typically followed by various infectious diseases such as bubonic plague+ and influenza+, which attacked and killed a population already weakened by starvation. Development economist+ Jean Dreze+ evaluated the conditions before and after Famine Commission policy changes: "A contrast between the earlier period of frequently recurring catastrophes, and the latter period when long stretches of tranquility were disturbed by a few large scale famines" in 1896–97, 1899–1900, and 1943–44.
In 1998–99, NABARD introduced a credit scheme to allow banks to issue short-term and timely credit to farmers in need via the Kisan Credit Card+ scheme. A large scale famine in Bihar was adverted due to this import, although livestock and crops were destroyed. The lessons from the 1987 drought brought to light the need for employment generation, watershed planning, and ecologically integrated development. The British Secretary of State for India, Lord Salisbury+, did nothing for two months, by which time a million people had died.
Dreze explains these "intermittent failures" by four factors—failure to declare a famine (particularly in 1943), the "excessively punitive character" of famine restrictions such as wages for public works, the "policy of strict non-interference with private trade," and the natural severity of the food crises.
The scheme has become popular among issuing bankers and the recipient farmers with a total credit of made available via the issuing of 23,200,000 credit cards . Other reasons for successfully averting a large scale famine were the employing various famine prevention measures such as improving communication abilities, issuing famine bulletins over the radio and offering employment to those affected by famine in government public works projects. Between 2000 and , land use for food or fuel has become a competing issue due to a demand for ethanol.

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