The infamous Bengal famine of 1943, which claimed the lives of as many as 3 million people, was to a great extent a result of the policies of then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a recent study by researchers in India and the US has indicated.
The study, which was published in a journal called Geophysical Research Letters in February, relied on weather data to gauge the amount of moisture that was present in the soil when six major famines hit the subcontinent in the colonial period, reports pointed out.
These six famines occurred in the years 1873-74, 1876, 1877, 1896-97 and 1943. With a deficit in soil moisture seen to be an indicator of drought, the researchers found that five of the famines were linked to such a deficit.
However, in the case of the Bengal famine of 1943, Vimal Mishra, an associate professor at IIT Gandhinagar who led the research, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “This was a unique famine, caused by policy failure instead of any monsoon failure.”
Interestingly, the study pointed out that rain levels were above average during the peak of the famine in late 1943, The Guardian further reported.
Among the policies of the British government that are believed by experts to have caused the famine were continued export of Indian resources during World War II (including rice stocks), lack of imports, and absence of declaration of famine in India.
Apart from Mishra, the other authors of the study are Amar Deep Tiwari, Saran Aadhar, Reepal Shah, Mu Xiao, DS Pai and Dennis Lettermaier.
(With inputs from The Guardian.)