Famine Policy of British Raj

Famine Policy of British Raj

This article deals with ‘ Famine Policy of British Raj – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Major Famines during Colonial Period

  • Bengal Famine of 1770 => Wiped out 1/3 of population.
  • In 1784, Madras was struck by a massive famine.
  • In 1792, North India struck by a famine.
  • In 1803, another famine in Oudh.
  • In 1833, Guntoor famine which wiped out 40% of population.
  • In 1837, another famine in North India.

Famine Policy

  • East India Company (EIC) was totally unconcerned about it. Some sort of policy started evolving only after the transfer of power to British crown.
  • In 1861, Delhi-Agra region was struck by a famine. A committee was appointed but no significant study was undertaken and situation remained largely unchanged.
  • In 1866 the Odisha famine struck and 3 million died. A committee was setup to look into the causes. The committee suggested that steps should be taken to generate employment and famine relief measures should be carried out.

Richard Strachey Commission

  • In 1876-78 another famine struck in many parts of India during times of Lytton  and 5 million died. Richard Strachey commission was appointed in 1880 which suggested
    • A famine code be formulated
    • Land Tax should be remitted for famine struck areas,
    • Data about peasantry should be collected to understand the true causes of the famine,
    • A famine relief fund should be established.

As a result of its recommendations,

  • A famine relief fund with a corpus of Rs. 1 cr was setup.
  • A famine code was implemented in 1886 which divided the famine prone areas into various categories, listed the precautions to be taken in normal times, listed the relief measures to be taken in a famine and the responsibilities of the officials in relief campaigns.

McDonnell commission

  • In 1896-97 a major famine struck in whole India. Another commission was appointed but nothing came out
  • In 1899-00, another famine broke out in India. McDonnell commission was appointed which recommended
    • Famine commission be established to coordinate relief measures
    • Famine Code should be revised
    • Transportation facilities be developed.
    • Agricultural banks should be setup.
    • Irrigation facilities should be developed.

In pursuance with recommendations a famine commission was setup, famine code revised and irrigation facilities developed.

Bengal Famine of 1943

  • In 1943 Bengal famine happened. Another commission was appointed which suggested merger of departments of food and agriculture and steps be taken to increase agriculture production.

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