Famine, 1943, Calcutta
An amazing story from the life of the British colonies, namely the area in northeast South Asia, known as Bengal.
Things were still unimportant since the 1930s: land depletion imposed on agrarian overpopulation (the population increased by 43% from 1901 to 1941), outdated management methods, while the peasants were in debt like silk. Already in the 1920s, Bengal turned from an exporter of rice to an importer, while the average daily ration of a peasant was 1 pound of rice per day.
The railway network in Bengal was poorly developed, the main means of transportation were rivers, and, accordingly, the means of transportation were boats.
In February – April 1942, the Japanese offensive began in Burma, and on April 26, 1942, British forces left Burma. Naturally, along with the troops, the Burmese refugees who entered Bengal also retreated, as we have said above, which did not shine. The refugees, numbering between 300 and 500 thousand heads, brought with them measles, cholera, typhoid, and rushed to the large cities of Bengal, where epidemiological outbreaks of these diseases began.I must say that Burma was just the main region from which rice was supplied to Bengal, and its fall made the famine in Bengal practically resolved.
Oh yeah, with the beginning of the war, the British government introduced in Bengal ... oh yes! The surplus, so beloved by all, exported from the province 159 thousand tons of rice per year (rice was included in the soldiers rations of the British), and in the first seven months of 1942 - 183 thousand tons. In addition, fearing the invasion of Bengal, the British administrators confiscated from peasants and residents of cities and villages ... all boats (up to 30,000 pieces), in panic, burned rice reserves concentrated on the coast, simply shoveled up tons of rice in the Ganges (so that the Japanese would not got). This, by the way, killed in the bud and fishing. They did not stop there, and they began to pursue a policy of burnt land on the border with Burma, burning and ruining villages, poisoning wells, etc.
Well, for the full buzz it is worth mentioning two more things. The first is inflation, which amounted to 63% for the year (it was by so much that food prices rose). Well, the second - natural disasters. In October 1942 came the North Indian cyclone, as well as the spotted fungus that struck rice.The cyclone is about 14 thousand people and about 190 thousand cattle. Flooding covered an area of 1200 square meters. km and a hurricane wind that turned over trees with a root on an area of 3200 sq. km. Sea water has gone down the rivers far inland, and made non-potable water in parts of rivers and lakes. After the cyclone, the heat that had brought malaria with her had subsided, and by April 1943, 250,000 people had already died in Bengal.
Heaps of people rushed to the coast, but we must not forget that Bengal was a front-line zone, where there was a regular army. The attacks on the army’s rice stores and boat collecting points led to monstrous casualties and from the hands of the military - up to 300 thousand people from March to July. Some crowds of zombie-starving soldiers were shot with guns and aircraft.
Then the British administration made a mistake - it planned to collect about half a million tons of rice in Bengal, but because of the spotted fungus they were able to collect only 189 thousand tons, and the rice from Amman, which they wanted to export to Bengal, simply did not follow. And came fucked. Full.
Food prices skyrocketed (by 1011%), there is nothing to replace it. There is nothing to catch fish with. Cattle massively died during the cyclone.Rice stocks are only on the coast, and they are intended for the army, and they are shipped to England at an accelerated pace — India exported over 70,000 tons of rice between January and July 1943, that is, an amount that could save approximately 400,000 lives.
In this situation, the viceroy of India asked the Secretary of State for Affairs in the colonies, Leo Emery, with a request to stop exports, and begin importing rice and grain to Bengal. Emery went to Churchill, having a proposal to start grain exports to Australia from Australia and New Zealand, but Sir Winston said simply: "Let them die, it will still breed like rabbits again." Grain exports from Australia and New Zealand began in the metropolis, not in India.
In the meantime, crowds of refugees began to go crazy in size. Eyewitnesses describe such cases when a crowd of almost skeletons massively rushes off a cliff into the abyss. Or massively repeats the feat of Anna Karenina. Corpses with self-devoured fingers, bitten ears, etc. All roads and villages were covered. Dogs and jackals who were huddled together in cities and villages, ran into lonely people and ate them in the streets.The total number of deaths from November 1942 to November 1943 is estimated by the British at 2.1 million people, by the Indians at 3-4 million people. I must say that closer to the truth it is Indian research, since the British victims of disease are not attributed to the victims of hunger. Like, from hunger is from hunger, and malaria or typhoid — yes, maybe he was already sick with them, although it is clear that these diseases accompany hunger.
I must say that the famine in Bengal in 1943 was quite man-made. It was created long ago, and it had to flare too long ago.
An amazing story happened to Sir Winston - putting him in the same cohort with Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong was shy.