An Explanatory note on the Famines in India
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From 1760 CE till 1943 India was hit by terrible famines on a regular basis. More than 85 million Indians died in these famines which were in reality genocides done by the British Raj.Contrast this to the fact that there have been no famine related deaths since independence!!
In the article below I will go over the causes and consequences of British made famines in India. I have used the words famine/genocide interchangeably as what happened in India was no different from genocide.
In the article I have tried to cover as many major points as I could, but it is inevitable that I will have missed quite a few. If brought to my attention I can add them sometime in the future.
1. What is a Famine?
Figure 1 Photograph of Famine Victims (taken from Wikipedia, year of Famine not known, possibly of the Terrible famine of 1899-1902)
A famine is defined as “A famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any faunal species. This phenomenon is usually accompanied and preceded by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.”
It is better known in Indian languages as a अकाल (Hindi), દુકાળ (Gujarati) or as दुष्काल (Marathi).
Droughts are usually the root cause of famines. In turn droughts where there is a scarcity of life giving water for the crops, are usually the direct causes of crop failure in India. The failure of the crops in turn leads to a scarcity of food in the affected area. Droughts are themselves usually caused by the failure of monsoons.
The failure of monsoons in turn is due to a periodic natural phenomenon known as ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation).ENSO occurs every five to seven years and causes extreme weather such as floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world. Putting it simply, ENSO is like a natural seesaw which causes the failure of monsoons over India while causing unnatural rainfall over the coast of South America.
So, is the process of famine in India as simple as sequential steps below?
ENSO causes monsoon failure —> Drought —–> Crops fail—–>Famine——> Millions dead?
Are famines then a natural follow on from the droughts caused by ENSO?
Not at all, for the last two steps where there is a food scarcity leading to a famine and consequent deaths are completely avoidable. Even a severe drought can be stopped from developing into a killer famine by Government policies such as: banning export of food grains, rushing adequate food supplies to the famine affected parts and ensuring equitable distribution, reducing the burden of taxation on people and in general making sure that there are enough reserves to tide through the crises. Famines always give advance notice as they are following on from droughts. With correct policy and timely government intervention it can be ensured that there are no famine related deaths nor the immense human suffering that precedes a famine.
Post Independence though we have had quite severe droughts, some of them even leading to famine (in Bihar in 1966-67), there have been no famine related deaths!!
Timely intervention by the Government of India was the main reason why droughts did not lead to millions of Indians dead. It is to the great credit of the governments of Independent India that they did not let Indians perish due to starvation.
This is precisely why I have referred to famines in British India as “British Made” (or Man made) .Millions of lives could have been saved if the British had really been bothered about doing the right thing. Nowadays of course they hypocritically moan about the number of people “starving” in India and gleefully make crap movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” which make them feel good about themselves.
2. The Ideological Framework of Extermination
For any genocide or holocaust there is a certain ideology which drives the killingthe Islamic invaders committed horrifying massacres in India driven by the ideology of Islam, the Portuguese massacred Hindus in Goa motivated by their Christian faith and the Nazis had their fantasy about being a superior race leading to the murder of millions deemed inferior. Once the ideology provides the justification for mass murder, the methods used to achieve it are just the “tools”. e.g. burning of Hindus at the stake for refusing to convert to Christianity would be a tool of genocide.
So accordingly the first question that we should be asking is: What was the ideology that was the driving force of the British Empire?
The straight answer to that is: Christianity. The British themselves were very clear about this; even a cursory glance at the documents of that period will make this clear. In addition there exists a multitude of books/papers which explore the synergy between missionaries spreading Christianity and the British colonization efforts. Hence from here on I will refer to the British rule in India as the Christian British Raj (CBR for short).
The next question is: How was it possible for the Christian British oppressors to be completely devoid of any feeling towards the dead and dying Indians?
I f you consider people different to you as human beings, it is next to impossible not to be affected by their suffering. But once you start viewing them as “primitive savages” or “heathens”, similar to animals that need to be herded in a particular direction, normal feelings of humanity cease to exist.
How was this desensitisation brought about? From my limited reading it appears that two factors led to the life of the Hindu becoming worthless in his own land. I have arranged them below in order of priority; the most important factor is the first one.
1.1 The “Heathen Hindoo”
(*A Heathen is defined as an uncivilized or barbaric person.More commonly used in the sense of someone who does not believe in Christianity. This is a particularly insulting term used towards Hindus by Christian missionaries even today.)
The first step of dehumanising the vast Hindu population of India was to portray them as heathens or unbelievers who were immersed in the “darkness” of Hinduism. According to the missionaries it was the divine duty of the British rulers to “liberate” Hindus from Hinduism. For this they had the active protection and support of the Christian British Raj. In the doublespeak of Christianity the word “heathen” or “pagan” is equivalent to the “sub human” of the Nazis. i.e. someone whose life has little or no value unless he /she embraces Christianity.
The below statement made by a prominent missionary of the late 18th century and early 19th century, a person who had lived for many years in India, illustrates the general attitude towards Hinduism.
Claudius Buchanan, a chaplain attached to the East India Company, counted himself among those who had known the Hindus for a long time. He had concluded, “Those, who have had the best opportunities of knowing them, and who have known them for the longest time, concur in declaring that neither truth, nor honesty, honour, gratitude, nor charity, is to be found pure in the breast of a Hindoo. How can it be otherwise? The Hindoo children have no moral instruction. If the inhabitants of the British isles had no moral instruction, would they be moral? The Hindoos have no moral books. What branch of their mythology has not more of falsehood and vice in it, than of truth and virtue? They have no moral gods. The robber and the prostitute lift up their hands with the infant and the priest, before an horrible idol of clay painted red, deformed and disgusting as the vices which are practised before it.”
Was this the ranting of a deranged mind or was this common place Christian missionary propaganda for the British masses? Vicious anti Hindu propaganda such as this was widely disseminated not only among the general public but was fed to all British employees of the East India Company.In addition most of the British administrators/soldiers etc were indoctrinated at church run schools from a very early age.
It must be kept in mind that even till thirty-forty years back Britain was a very “Christian” country, where the church played a central role in people’s lives. Much of the negative portrayal of Hinduism in the West today can be directly traced back to Christian missionary propaganda. Nothing has changed even in the present day as Christian missionaries continue to gather money overseas for conversion of Hindus in India.
Hence the would be oppressors of India had already a very fixed image of Hindus and Hinduism in their minds. I would call this the primary level of ideology, where it was already decided that Hindus were “bad”.
1.2 Malthusian Mumbo Jumbo
Remember how for a long time we were bombarded by media propaganda that “population growth is bad”? Or that we are heading for a disaster as population grows beyond control?
All this screaming about the population explosion being dangerous was specifically directed towards India and China. Western countries were only concerned about the “population explosion” as the ease with which they mercilessly exploit resources would be under threat from India & China. The underlying current to these “concerns” is the racist fear of the “browns” (Indians), “yellow” (Chinese) and “black” (this referred to both Indians and Africans when racism could be publicly practised) would overrun “white” civilisation. Some western authors have even made a career out of predicting millions of deaths in India and China due to famines etc!
All this propaganda about “population growth is bad” has died out a bit in recent years as a more realistic viewpoint has emerged .Turns out population growth is not a “disaster” as was being screamed by the Western media and academics. India is especially poised to reap rich benefits from its population growth as a large segment of the population is of youth. China due to its short sighted “one child” only policy is going to face a rapidly ageing population in the coming years. Most of Europe and Japan are already heading for a demographic disaster as their population falls below replacement levels.
All this western fear of a population explosion derives from the theories proposed by an academic nutcase by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Malthus taught History and Political Economy at the East India College at Hayleybury in Britian. And it is no surprise that Malthus was member of the Christian clergy (a priest for short) and was inspired by “Christian principles”.
Hayleybury College can be considered to be the gutter where “well mannered” white Christian men laid out plans for the conquest and decimation of India. This college was where the future British murderers in India wereprominent alumni of Hayleybury include Sir John Lawrence (Viceroy of India from 1864-68),Sir Richard Temple (governot of Bombay presidency from 1877-1880).All the crazy economic and social engineering theories which led to the genocides in India were taught here. We can think of this as similar to a Nazi propaganda centre.
The basic theory as given by Malthus boils down to this:
· Population growth is bad as population would grow to an extent that the resources would no longer be enough to support it.
· Two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventative ones, which lower the birth rate.
· The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventative checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy.
The mass murderers who went under the title of “Viceroys of India” were all pass outs from the East India College and deeply influenced by the rubbish taught there. They actually saw the massive death tolls due to famines as a “positive check” on the population of Indians!
This is illustrated in a confidential note sent by to Lord Ripon by one of his subordinates (Ripon was viceroy of India from 1880-1884 CE),
“In the words of Couper: ‘If the famine mortality in 1879 be tested, it will be found that about 80 per cent of the deaths come from the labouring classes, and nearly the whole of the remaining 20 per cent from cultivators owning such minute plots of land as to be hardly removed from labourers.’ Although they died more rapidly than any other, ‘still they reproduce themselves with sufficient rapidity to overcrowd every employment that is opened to them.’”
Malthusian theories still exert tremendous influence on Western governments and intellectuals, as is evident by the constant fears of population growth expressed by them. Added to the Malthusian theories of growth were the economic theories of free trade which emphasised minimum government interference in trade and advocated maximising profits. I haven’t read much on them at this point in time, I will add more matter once I have read enough to form a reasonable opinion.
All these theories combined to form the Secondary Level of Ideology, which basically acted as the template to justify the genocides subsequently carried out in India.
3. Tools of Genocide
In the passages below I have tried to present as many of the direct causes of the massive deaths in the British genocides of Indians as I could gather from my limited reading.
3.1 Feed the English, Starve the Indian
In all the famines which took place under the Christian British Raj, there never was a shortage of food in the country overall .In fact during the worst famines, surplus food grains were being exported from India. Nothing illustrates this point better than the graphs below which show that records amount of rice and wheat were being exported out of India, while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. This begs the question: If taking food from the mouth of a starving man while he dies of hunger is not deliberate murder, then what is?
Example 1: The Terrible Indian Famine of 1876-79
Figure 2 Food Exports during the years 1872-1879 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)
The terrible famine of 1876-79 was spread out across nearly the whole of southern, western and northern India (Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh).The most realistic estimate of deaths is nearly 10 million. Those who survived the starvation of the famine were finished off by outbreaks of cholera.
During the famine of 1876-79 CE rice and wheat exports continued more or less as usual. Close to a million tonnes of rice were exported each year while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. As can be seen from fig.1 in the peak famine year of 1877-78 a record three lakh tonnes of wheat were exported!!
The worst affected area by far was South India, particularly the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (what used to be Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency).
The worst affected districts were as follows:
|Name of District|
|North Arcot||South Arcot|
Lord Lytton (or the “Butcher”) who was the Viceroy of India did not give a damn about the dying farmers. In fact he went out of his way to block any kind of help to the dying millions. An ardent believer of Malthusian mumbo jumbo, he believed that it was only right that the “surplus” Indians were being killed off by famine! The emphasis was always on saving money and he deputed his minion Sir Richard Temple to make sure “unnecessary” expenditure was not done on relief works.
Our culture dictates that hungry people should be given food without any conditions, it is considered reprehensible to make starving people work for food. But the inhuman British ethic was not to give any food unless half dead Indians had done some work in their relief camps.
Figure 3 A photograph of Famine Victims of 1877 CE , their bodies are skeletonised and are very near to death (source Wikipedia)
Temple went one step further and instituted relief camps which were not very different to Nazi concentration camps. People already half dead from starvation had to walk hundreds of miles to reach these relief camps, which were hell holes (see fig 3 above for an illustration of a typical famine sufferers condition). Additionally he instituted a food ration for starving people working in the camps, which was less than that given to the inmates of Nazi concentration camps. The rations given to prisoners by the Nazis at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944 had a calorific value of 1627 calories, while the “Temple” ration for famine victims was 1500 calories!
Half dead Indians were expected to work nine hours in the scorching Indian sun with only 450 grams of rice per day. And this 450 grams of rice was supposed to cover the hunger of any dependents or relations of the worker. Mass death was inevitable on this concentration camp diet.
Temple’s policy was specifically designed to discourage people from using the relief camps and thus lessen the financial burden on the British government. The British policy of systematic mass murder was very similar to the Nazi policy of getting rid of “undesirables”.
Figure 4 The architect of the terrible genocide of 1876-78, “Butcher” Lytton (image source: Wikipedia)
The situation of the people was desperate. But there was no relief from any quarter. Even as people fell dead outside the grain depots, the CBR took the “sensible” measure of posting armed guards in order to prevent starving Indians from taking over the export depots. Profits before humanity, that’s the British way!
Horrible scenes such as this were enacted throughout the country: “Scores of corpses were tumbled into old wells, because the deaths were too numerous for the miserable relatives to perform the usual funeral rites. Mothers sold their children for a single scanty meal. Husbands flung their wives into ponds, to escape the torment of seeing them perish by the lingering agonies of hunger. Amid these scenes of death the Government of India kept its serenity and cheerfulness unimpaired.”
Or this one describing a scene from Tamil Nadu: “The greater part of the bed of the river is dry, and I was shocked to see that it had been selected as a burying- place where fresh ashes showed that several bodies had been recently burnt. There are pools of water here and there in the bed, and these are in an abominably foul state, owing to bodies out of the graves having been dragged to the water to be eaten. There were ten or twelve pariah dogs prowling about as fat as sheep, and unusually bold, and there were also vultures sailing overhead or perched on the ground. I had been positively assured that bodies were as often thrown down and left as buried, and that dogs could any day be seen eating them, so I resolved to satisfy myself fully of that. Accordingly, after a couple of minutes’ search, I came upon two dogs worrying over the body of a girl about eight years old. They had newly attacked it, and had only torn one of the legs a little, but the corpse was so enormously bloated that it was only from the total length of the figure one could tell it was a child’s. The sight and smell of the locality were so revolting, and the dogs so dangerous, that I did not stay to look for a second body ; but I saw two skulls and a backbone which had been freshly picked.”
The mass murdering Viceroy, Lord “Butcher” Lytton had given specific orders that the news of the famine should be suppressed. But he went ahead with organising a grand durbar in Calcutta in honour of Queen Victoria .While this sham “durbar” was going on nearly 100,000 Indians died in Madras presidency of starvation.
In places like Mysore terrible atrocities were perpetrated on starving women and children. To quote from Mike Davis book, “When desperate women and their hungry children …attempted to steal from gardens or glean grain from fields, they were “branded, tortured, had their noses cut off, and were sometimes killed.”
Example 2: The Terrible Famines of 1896-97 and 1899-1902
Figure 5 Food exports during the years 1892-1902 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)
The same dismal story is repeated again in the terrible famines of 1896-1902.As can be seen from fig 3 above rice and wheat exports soared to record levels in the years where the famine was at its peak. The most conservative estimates of Indians who died in these two killer famines are 8.4 million while the more realistic estimate is about 19 million.
Famines and epidemics went hand in hand. One of the main killers during famines was the sky rocketing prices of food grains which made it impossible for a majority of affected Indians to buy food. This same cause was responsible for the millions of deaths occurring during the epidemics. Again the root cause was of course British economic rape of India.
3.2 The Economic Rape of the Indian Farmer
Why were farmers not able to tide over the particularly bad famine years under the Christian British Raj? It was not as if droughts, crop failures etc had never happened in India prior to the tyranny of the Christian British. So why did a few years of particularly bad drought lead to Indian farmers dying in their millions? Below are some of the main economic reasons for their inability to survive the famines.
3.2.1 Exploitative Land Tax and Brutal collection methods:
The case of Bengal is illuminating to know how the British bled Indians white, even when farmers had nothing to eat. The British attitude towards tax and revenue extraction remained virtually unchanged till they left India. Bengal was the first to feel the devastating effects of the Christian British rule after East India Company became virtual rulers of the province post Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE. A devastating famine in 1768 CE killed off nearly ten million people in Bengal and Bihar.
Figure 6 Gross Revenue Collected during the Bengal Famine of 1768 (source: R C Dutt, The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Vol. I, page 46)
But even while the dance of death was going on, record amounts of tax were recovered from the people by the most violent methods which included murder, rape etc.(see fig 4 above for a graphical representation of the revenues extracted by East India Company).
In Warren Hastings own words, “Notwithstanding the loss of at least one-third of the inhabitants of the province, and the consequent decrease of the cultivation, the nett collections of the year 1771 exceeded even those of I768. . . . It was naturally to be expected that the diminution of the revenue should have kept an equal pace with the other consequences of so great a calamity. That it did not was owing to its being violently kept up to its former standard.”
And what was done to lessen the sufferings of the Indian people?
Absolutely nothing of course! The British tyrants and the Indian traitors who collaborated with them forced farmers to sell seeds required for the next harvest and made immense profits by manipulating the prices of life saving grain. Thus on one hand farmers were deprived of their sole source of future sustenance and on the other hand the sky rocketing prices of food made it impossible to buy life saving food grains!
3.2.2 The Quandary of Cash Crops
Farmers were forced to grow cash crops such as cotton, opium, indigo simply to keep paying off the extortionate demands of the British leeches. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce dictated and controlled the growth of cotton in fertile areas such as Berar (Vidarbha in Maharashtra).The entire social system of Vidarbha was destroyed so that the British could put in place their own rapacious system known as khatedari which was implemented in 1877 CE .The old landlord families were either destroyed or pauperised and the British government became the supreme owner of the farm lands.
Crops such as cotton grew readily in the fertile black soil of Deccan but had the side effect of destroying the fertility of the soil. In addition the British parasites even turned cow dung which had acted as a natural fertiliser, into a taxable revenue source.The Manchester Chamber of Commerce pushed for the introduction of railways in Vidarbha so that it could have a vast captive cotton growing plantation. The capitalists of Britain wanted a secure source of raw cotton which they could turn to in case of any fluctuations in cotton supply from America. The poor farmers of Vidarbha were instantly exposed to the fluctuations in the world markets and had absolutely no share in the massive profits made by the British bloodsuckers. Thus when famine hit the impoverished farmers died in their lakhs.
Also increasing indebtness forced the farmers to sell their plots of land to sahukars (money lenders).This led to the concentration of fertile lands in the hands of a few thousand very rich non -resident landlords. The previously self sufficient farmer was forced to work as a labourer on his own land. Even those farmers who managed to hold on to their land, the acreage under their ownership was for most part between 5-6 acres, which was not sufficient to support the farmer and his family. Added to this was an influx of artisans, craftsmen etc who had been thrown out of work due to the British murder of Indian industry. They had no option but to work as labourers on bigger farms with virtually no resources to withstand a famine. The grim story of Vidarbha was repeated in Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.
3.2.3 The Tyranny of Taxation
The amount of tax traditionally paid by the farmer under the Maratha empire (or previously the Mughal regime) was between 16-17% of the gross produce. Again this was flexible depending on the conditions if crops had failed the demand by the state would be reduced or in some cases suspended for the time being. What this used to do was to leave farmers with enough reserves to tide them over though difficult under the Maratha Empire tax collection was flexible and kept in line with the circumstances of the day.
But under the Christian British Raj there was no such humanitarian response to the life threatening crises faced by the Indian farmer. The tax itself came to about 33% of gross produce. But this tax was not the end of things. On top of this basic tax were different taxes for roads, schools, post offices, dispensary, water tax etc. Taxes were levied on the most flimsy of excuses and the poor farmer had no protection against the brutal force exercised by the British rulers. All these miscellaneous taxes added upto nearly 100% of the farmers real assets!!
The worst thing was that the British government would confiscate food stocks at the time of revenue collection. The ryots(farmers) had no option but to borrow money at rip off interest rates from money lenders to release their grain stocks.In fact the entire class of bloodsucking moneylenders came into existence because of the policies of the Christian British Raj.
The way taxes were raised was extremely arbitrary and without any basis in reality. The rise was based on the value of the land, so called “public works” done by the CBR (which included railways, roads, schools, dispensaries etc). The tax was raised irrespective of the fact whether the farmer was getting better prices for his produce or not. This inevitably led to the situation of the already beggared farmer paying over 100% of his earnings in tax. Also, the arbitrary rise in taxes could not be appealed in the courts in Bombay Presidency. Thus there was not even the illusion of justice.
Quite a few examples are given of the unsustainable level of debt burden carried by Indian farmers in RC Dutts “Famine and Land Assessments”. To quote one of these,
“ Murar the Patel, a young man, farms sixty acres, but there has been no produce this year. The farm is mortgaged to the extent of about 3000 rupees. He estimates his last year’s produce at 375 rupees, of which he paid 104 rupees to Government. He had to buy four bullocks for 100 rupees, and pay 40 rupees for servants, and was therefore unable to pay anything to the money-lender. The other expenses of cultivation amounted to nearly 60 rupees. He kept the rest for himself, his wife, uncle, and two children. He has been served with notice of assessment. He had six bullocks, and has lost four”.
The net effect of this crushing taxation was to strip away any saving capability of the farmers in years when the harvests were good. The following observation by A K Connell illustrates this point well,
“Against this calamity (drought) the cultivator, when unable to get a permanent water-supply from wells,* tanks, canals, or rivers, has provided from, time immemorial by the storage of grain in air-tight pits or earthen¬ ware jars. If war or taxation, levied in excess, or at times of distress, has depleted these stores, then the worst horrors of famine have swept over the land;”
The farmers were permanently in deep debt to money lenders just to keep paying the extortionate tax demands. They had to sell even their reserve food stocks just to stay afloat. This left the farmer with no buffer when famines hit him. With every passing year the farmers sank deeper into desperate poverty and further into the clutches of money lenders. Every year lakhs of farmers were dispossessed of their small plots of land.
In fact in the Bombay and Madras Presidencies the land tax demands kept on increasing every thirty years by an extortionate amount. For e.g. when the remnants of the Maratha empire were finally conquered by the British in 1817 CE the revenue from those parts was 80 Lakhs, within a year it went upto 115 lakhs and in a few more years it was 150 lakhs. So between 1817 and 1818 in a span of one year there was a jump of nearly 43% in the actual revenue collected!
How was this possible? Did the farmers of Deccan feel so happy at being conquered by the British that they expressed their joy by paying more tax? Or did the soil become super productive thanks to the British “genius”?
The reality was horrifying and dismal. Farmers were fleeced of every spare anna on their persons. Brutal collection methods were employed to force farmers to part with their meagre savings. Unable to withstand the torture meted out by the British on non payment of taxes many farmers abandoned their lands and fled into the areas ruled by the Princely states.Millions of acres of previously fertile land went out of cultivation as farmers voted with their feet and abandoned their lands.
3.3 So….Where did the money go?
You will be justified in asking the question … “Where did all this revenue extracted by the British murderers go?”
The major part of the revenue was sent to Britain. Every year nearly 20-30 million pounds were drained from India.This did not include the enormous amount of money paid as salaries to the white British who occupied nearly all the important positions in India. In 1892 itself the total value of the jobs reserved for white British was over 15 million pounds sterling while the value of jobs reserved for Indians was little over 3 million pounds!
Additionally we need to add to the above amounts the huge amount of personal wealth accumulated by white traders, officers etc who remitted most of it back to Britain. For a better idea of the huge amounts of wealth drained out of India by the British parasites, I would recommend reading R C Dutts books.
Another big drain on India’s finances was the cost of maintenance of Britain’s armed forces and funding its wars overseas. To give an example: while butcher Lytton blocked any “excess” expenditure on saving the victims of the famine of 1876-78, he fully utilised Indian revenues to fund his disastrous afghan war adventure (this was the second Anglo-afghan war fought from 1878-1880 CE). The same thing happened during the genocide of 1898-1902; our money was used to fund the Boer war in South Africa and the Third Anglo-Afghan war. Strange as it may sound, we were actually paying the British to kill us and carry on their genocides elsewhere.
3.3.1 The Fraud of the “Famine Grant”
After the terrible holocaust of 1876-78, another money grabbing tax was dumped upon Indians. This was known as the “Annual Famine Grant”. Theoretically what it was supposed to do was to raise enough money to prevent another holocaust like that of 1876-78 recurring.
But the tax was hated by Indians as soon as it was levied in 1877 CE and for a very good reason. After putting on a show that the funds were not being misused, the money collected in the name of the famine grant was quietly combined with the general revenue of the country. This meant the British parasites could use the money as they wanted. By the time the next terrible holocaust of 1897-1902 hit, over 22 crore rupees had been collected under this fraudulent tax, out of which only 17 crore rupees had been spent.
But how was this giant reservoir of Indian money used? Nearly 58% of the seventeen crore rupees (to the tune of 10 crore rupees) was spent on “protective railways” and in paying “interest upon Indian Midland and Bengal Nagpore railways”!
184.108.40.206 Hey wait a minute…. Weren’t Railways Good for India?
Wait a minute you say…Wasn’t spending money on developing railway infrastructure a good thing? After all weren’t the British parasites spending the money on “creating” modern infrastructure in India? So, what’s the catch?
First of all, the money was being collected for a very specific purpose i.e. to make sure that a repeat of 1876-78 famine did not occur. Using it for anything else was simply a theft of funds.
Secondly, the existence of railways did not help in any way saving people from famine. All they did was to make the transport of food grains towards the coastal ports easier, thus depriving inner provinces of much needed food grain .The advent of railways was directly linked to the rise in food prices.If food prices shot up in one area, the food price rise was transmitted to other areas as well. This only served to worsen the starvation problem as poor farmers already drowning in debt due to excessive taxation were simply unable to buy any food. By this stage the poor farmers had already sold their last stocks of grain to moneylenders thus leaving them defenceless in face of famine.
The railways were also carriers of epidemic diseases such as cholera, influenza etc. Indians died in their millions due to these epidemic, their immune systems destroyed by starvation. Plus the traditional water drainage and water conservation systems were destroyed by the haphazardly constructed railway embankments, tracks etc.
Could the government have interfered and made sure the food prices did not sky rocket out of the reach of the poor and could the railways have been used to rush life saving food grains? This should have been done but never was; the British policy was not to interfere with “free trade”. i.e. their profits should not be affected!
Instead each devastating holocaust was used as to reap more profits for the British vultures by using the excuse that “there was not enough railway to make sure starvation does not take place” and thus more railway tracks were laid at the Indian tax payers expense!!
By the time of the holocaust of 1898 almost 26,059 miles of railway track had been laid down in India Even at this stage R C Dutt describes the railways as being “overdone”.
Thirdly, most of the railway projects in India were specifically designed to make British speculators and capitalist vulture’s very rich. A minimum return profit of 5% was guaranteed by the British raj to British investors, irrespective of whether the railways made a profit or a loss. Most of the railway lines made losses or served no practical purpose, but British investors still made a large profit as all losses were paid by the Indian tax payer. There are many examples of how speculators in London dictated what lines should be constructed and what profits they would extract from the Indian tax payer.
Fourthly, the forced expansion to railways in India was primarily for the benefit of British industry. Everything including coal, steel for tracks/bridges etc, railway engines, and rolling stock was imported from Britain. In fact at one stage it was cheaper to buy British coal in Calcutta than Bengal coal!
There was zero benefit to Indians from the “modern technology” dumped on our heads by the British leeches. For nothing was produced in India! Any attempt by Indians to set up manufacturing facilities in India was forcefully discouraged.
Freight on the railways was heavily subsidized, thus directly undercutting traditional transports such as boats which plied the major river systems. As any loss made by the railways was picked up by the Indian tax payer, the British Raj had no problems with the huge losses made by the railways. By 1884 the total loss made by the railways in India was staggering £37 million pounds sterling.
This was what an astute British observer had to say about railways being constructed in India (specifically with reference to districts of Raipur & Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, Sambhalpur in Orissa):
“At present there is no doubt that the peasantry in these districts are most prosperous. They make their own clothes ,they grow their own food; they have good pasture for their cattle, cheap fuel, and forests to attract rain. A railway will destroy the home weaving, absorb the profits of the carriers, cut down the forests, inflate wages and then depress them, and finally raise the land-tax. In twenty years’ time there will most probably be a famine.”
The railway line in question was the Bengal-Nagpur Railway which was completed by 1890.This was a remarkably prophetic prediction as within ten years (in the holocaust of 1898) these districts suffered lakhs of deaths due to starvation and economic impoverishment.
220.127.116.11 But wasn’t some of the Famine grant used for “Protective Irrigation”?
Along with the railways, irrigation works (i.e. canals, dams etc) are frequently trumpeted as an example of “good” that the British did in India. But the fact remains that they were only built in those areas where the British had a commercial interest in growing grains or cash crops.
Even where built, they had a devastating effect on the fertility of the soils and on the general health of the Indian people. Previously fertile soil was rendered saline and waterlogged, unfit for cultivation due to the seepage of water through the canals. The construction of river embankments led to a blocking of the natural system of rich fertile alluvial soil being carried by river action to the low lying plains. This in turn rapidly made millions of acres of fertile land useless and considerably lowered the quality of drinking water. The natural drainage systems were further blocked by the “modern” system of canals and embankments leading to water logging and creation of mosquito breeding swamps. Due to these, malaria, cholera etc spread on an epidemic scale in India; killing millions (the toll from the epidemics actually comes close to the famine toll).e.g. the Influenza epidemic of 1918-19 killed approximately 12-13 million Indians.
Traditional Indian irrigation systems were neglected and allowed to fall into ruin. Here is a British officer’s description of the superb irrigation systems of pre-British India (the below refers to south India):
“In no part of the world has so much been done by ancient native rulers for the development of resources of the country. The further south one goes ,and the further the old Hindu polity was removed from the disturbing influence of foreign conquest ,the more complete and elaborate was the system of agriculture and irrigation works connected with it….Every available source of supply was utilised ,and works in advance of supply have been executed, for tanks have been very generally constructed, not only for general rainfall, but for exceptional rainfall…Irrigation from rivers and channels..was also carried on.”
The British had no economic benefit of maintain and extending this system, so they let it fall into ruin. If these systems worked fine, what was the point of constructing expensive canal works which led to disaster?
4. The Devastating Effect of the British made Holocausts
4.1 Stagnation of Population Growth & a Short Life Span
Due to the horrific death toll extracted by the successive holocausts of the 19th and 20th centuries population growth stagnated and in many areas of India even went into negative. (Unless otherwise specified, all the data has been taken from the census reports for the relevant years).
Table 1 Average Life Expectancy of Indians from 1871-1921 (source: Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659)
If you were an Indian living in the 1920’s the chances of your surviving beyond the age of twenty were extremely slim. The average life span of Indians went on steadily decreasing as the 1920’s approached. Table 1 above gives an idea of the average life expectancy of our people under the “beneficial” rule of the Christian British Raj.
Figure 7 Population in millions under British rule
Figure 8 Percentage increase in population from 1881-1941 under the Christian British Raj
From figures 6 & 7 above it is clear that for most part of the British rule population growth was more or less stagnant. Over a period of 70 years the population grew by barely 100 million. The effect of devastating british made genocides can be seen in the census reports of 1881,1901,1921.What the graphs do not show is the terrible Bengal genocide of 1943 in which nearly seven million people died, as the last census under the Christian British Raj was done in 1941.
Now look at the same graphs below (fig 8 & 9) for population growth after independence in 1947.Keep in mind this does not include more than 33% of pre 1947 India. After 1947, Pakistan (Bangladesh and the present day rump remaining of West Pakistan), Burma etc were separated from India.
But even in the remaining Indian landmass the population has grown by over 500 million from 1961-2001!! From a simple glance at figures 6 and 8, it looks like some kind of a negative force has been taken off after 1947 and the population growth is back to normal.
The average percentage population growth after independence is around 23%!!
Figure 9 Population growth in Azad Hind after 1947
Figure 10 Percentage increase in Population after 1947 in Azad Hind
4.2 Destruction of Traditional Indian Society
If we start talking about destruction of traditional Indian village society, the logical question arises: “What was Indian society before the British conquest like?”
Going in detail is beyond the scope of this article, for a detailed description a reading of Sri Dharampal’s book “A Beautiful Tree” is highly recommended. For the time being as we are concerned with famine and traditional Indian society’s response to it, this short description by A K Connell will suffice,
“The spirit of charity, deeply engrained in the native heart, has held the village society together, so that even the landless classes—with the exception perhaps of the very lowest outcasts—have been kept alive by their richer neighbours” .
This harmony and humanity of traditional Indian society was what kept droughts from developing into murderous holocausts. But this harmonious system broke down under the constant pressure and manipulation by the Christian British Raj. As we saw above, even in normal times simple survival had become a constant struggle for Indian farmers. Added to this the removal of traditional powers of the village chiefs and into the hands of inhuman British revenue/settlement officers destroyed the traditional village accountability.
The horrors of the British made holocausts destroyed traditional Indian society in more ways than one. As all hope of life ran out, village communities who had existed peacefully for centuries turned on each other for that last morsel of grain. Terrible violence followed as farmers fought for the last stored supplies of grain.The Deccan region, covering Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka was worst affected in the holocausts of 1876 and 1898-1902.
Rural society in Maharashtra broke down under the relentless hammering of the British made holocausts. The farmers in Maharashtra were traditionally militarised and had formed the backbone of the Maratha armies which brought down the Mughal Empire and kept the British parasites at bay for nearly a hundred years. But in the new circumstances groups which had traditionally lived and fought side by side, turned on each other.
Many villages were completely wiped off the map as almost all of their inhabitants died in the famines. Lakhs of Indians were forced by starvation to sign up as indentured labourers (a polite name for slaves) and shipped off to work in plantations in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana and Natal.
The condition of Indian women under the Christian British Raj was especially bad, but under famine it became even worse. Rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of Indian women were normal and accepted British practices. Under the racist justice system in India, white British and Anglo-Indians routinely got away with rape and murder. Official British propaganda portrayed all Indian women (no exceptions) as “prostitutes” and carriers of sexually transmitted diseases (such as syphilis, gonorrhoea etc ).
In short the according to the British: Indian women had no honour and could be violated at will. In every military cantonment brothels (filled with Indian women) were constructed for the “exclusive” use of British soldiers.These were known as “sadr” bazaars. In times of famine, desperate starving Indian women were forced to work as prostitutes simply in order to survive and keep their children alive.Keeping in line with their hypocrisy, the British authorities simply designated them as professional prostitutes and subjected them to the degrading “medical examinations”. But white soldiers were exempt from being examined for sexually transmitted diseases as it would affect their morale!
In most British orchestrated genocides such as the Bengal Famine of 1943, the death rate amongst male Indians was very high, leading to lakhs of women being left defenceless against being exploited by the British and their Indian collaborators. Mass prostitution resulted from the dire circumstances of the famine.
4.3 Harvesting the Dead
The main winners from these genocides apart from the British government, British people and speculators in London were the Christian missionaries. I personally consider a Christian missionary to be the worst form of a human being. They thrive on the suffering, misery and distress of people. Their entire life revolves around converting non Christians by fraud, coercion or force. Their chief concern in life is “harvesting souls”, which is missionary speak for converting as many people as they can. Much like Islamic suicide bombers who are motivated by the promise of 72 virgin women in the next life, Christian missionaries are motivated by the premise of capturing the maximum number of souls before they depart this earth.
In India every famine/ disaster was a godsend for missionaries as they were able to convert lakhs of desperate people by holding out the promise of life saving grain. The interesting thing is that majority of missionaries were white Europeans or Americans and had an ample supply of food grains even when Indians were falling dead all around them.
In the later phase of British colonial rule, Indian converts to Christianity were increasingly used to ensure greater “penetration” of Hindu society. The spread of Christianity in India on a large scale closely coincides with the occurrence of famines/epidemics. Mahatma Gandhi called people who converted to Christianity under extreme circumstances as “rice Christians”.
Figure 11 Percentage Growth of Christians in India from 1871-1921 (all data sourced from Relevant census reports)
As can be seen from the graph there is a spurt in the number of Christians in 1881 (right after the genocide of 1876-78), 1901 (during the genocide of 1898-1902), 1921 (after the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919).This shows as bogus the claims of missionaries that Hindus converted to Christianity to “escape” the caste system (or whatever vile reason they could come up with).
Here is an example of mass conversions during famine,
“The high-water mark in the history of the Tinnevelly Church was reached in the year 1877. That year has been made ever memorable by the great famine which desolated the south. Ordinary missionary work was retarded in a heroic effort to save human life. Relief was rendered to Hindu and Christian alike ; hundreds were saved from starvation and death. In a few months 30,000 Shanans placed themselves under Christian instruction, not so much with a view to material gain as that they had felt the attractive power of love, ” The conviction prevailed “ so wrote Bishop Caldwell, “ that whilst Hinduism had left the famine-stricken to die, Christianity had stepped in like an angel from heaven with its sympathy to cheer them with its effectual succour.”
Or this account of a Maharashtrian lady called Ramabai, who had converted to Christianity and zealously prayed for Hindu women to be widowed so she could convert them! The sickness of her mind can only be marvelled at!
“The great famines of 1896-1897 and of 1900 gave Ramabai her opportunity. Before the earlier famine she asked that God would give her a great increase of conversions and prayed for a number of widows far in excess of anything her institution could hold. On the outbreak of famine she travelled to the Central Provinces. When the famine was over she had between five and six hundred women and children.”
5. In Conclusion: Famines as a Strategic British Weapon
Thanks to Parag Tope ji, Brihaspati ji and Atri ji from Bharat Rakshak for pointing out the strategic aspect of the British genocides in India. I will very briefly go over the possible strategic reasons behind the British genocides in India. These are just brief outlines of selected areas, a determined patriot will need to do deeper research and connect the dots.
Maharashtra/Rajasthan: In heavily militarised societies such as in the Deccan and Rajasthan, even common people used to take up arms to fight invaders such as the Mughals, British etc. In fact the backbone of the Maratha armies were farmers from the Deccan. The pan Indian character of the Maratha Empire is illustrated by the fact that in the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the main leaders (Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai, Nanasaheb Peshwa) were Maharashtrian, but the people of Northern India threw their weight behind them in the war of liberation.
The destruction of this sturdy village society was essential to the British not only for easy economic exploitation but for total control over India. A heavily militarised society was bound to fight back against the injustices inflicted by the British. Once entire social classes were destroyed and people reduced to eating scraps for survival, the chances of a fully fledged pan Indian war were significantly reduced. The terrible famines of 1791-92, 1802-03, 1813-14, 1876-78, and 1898-1902 completely destroyed the social fabric of rural society in Maharashtra.
Uttar Pradesh: During the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the British pursued a policy of mass genocide by killing lakhs of villagers in Northern India. These villagers had been the main source of support and logistics to the freedom fighters. This genocide was directly responsible for the terrible famine of 1860 in Uttar Pradesh & Punjab. Over two million Indians died in this famine. The reason given for the famine of 1860 was that there was not enough land being cultivated due to a lack of farmers who were either dead or had fled to safer areas during 1857.
Bengal Presidency: The two main famines which hit Bengal Presidency were in 1769-1772 and in 1942-44.Over 17 million people died in these two genocides. In 1769-1772 the famine was particularly advantageous for the British as they were facing ferocious resistance from armies of Sanyasis (immortalised in the great patriotic novel Anandamath by Sri Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay).The death of nearly ten million people in the famine virtually destroyed the local support base of resistance to the British.
In 1942, the “brave” British armed forces were being thrashed black and blue by the Japanese. The Japanese had chased the British right till the gates of India. Leading the attack on the British were the patriots of the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) under the inspiring leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Once the INA forces reached Bengal it was a certainty that the people of Bengal would join them. At that point it would be have been game over for the British in India.
To avert this, the British administration destroyed over 25,000 boats which were the lifeline of the people in Bengal. Plus food stocks were confisticated from a large part of Bengal, thus condemning the people to death by starvation. Within months the Bengali people were fighting for survival and this destroyed the support base of the INA. The toll from the genocide of 1942-44 was horrific and over seven million Bengalis died in this genocide.
The above are just select examples of how the British pursued a genocidal scorched earth policy against our people whenever their rule was threatened.
Only by reading our history can we appreciate the magnitude of sacrifices made by Vasudev Balwant Phadke,Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Masterda Surya Sen and countless others. And we also can begin to understand why many of our freedom fighters performed the supreme sacrifice with Vande Mataram on their lips. We need to get out of the one track mind set which seems to pervade our country and become more alive to the threats from within and without.
 Strictly speaking this type of a drought is known as a “meteorological drought”. There are two more types of droughts namely “hydrological” and “agricultural”. For simplicity I have mentioned only the meteorological drought. Although all three can be considered linked to one another especially in India.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Ni%C3%B1o-Southern_Oscillation, extracted on 18-12-2010
 Susan Visvanathan, The Homogeneity of Fundamentalism: Christianity, British Colonialism and India in the Nineteenth Century, Studies in History, 2000,16:221
 Claudius Buchanan, Memories of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India: Both as the means of Perpetuating the Christian Religion Among Our Countrymen; And as a Foundation for the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, London, 1805, Part II, para 6.quoted in Sita Ram Goel, History if Hindu-Christian Encounters AD304 to 1996,Chapter 8.availiable at : http://voiceofdharma.org/books/hhce/index.htm
Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Recruitment and training of British civil servants in India, 1600–1860’.quoted by Ian Copeland, CHRISTIANITY AS AN ARM OF EMPIRE: THE AMBIGUOUS CASE OF INDIA UNDER THE COMPANY, c. 1813 –1858,The Historical Journal, 49, 4 (2006), pp. 1025–1054
 Ibid, see 7 above.
 I have taken this from the Wikipedia article on Malthus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus#1815:_The_Nature_of_Rent
 Malthusian Population Theory and Indian Famine Policy in the Nineteenth CenturyAuthor(s): S. Ambirajan. Source: Population Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1976), pp. 5-14
 Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 39,table 1.3.
 Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 38
 Digby quoted by Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 45.
 Osborne quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 53
 Digby, William (1878), The Famine Campaign in Southern India: Madras and Bombay Presidencies and province of Mysore, 1876-1878, Volume 1,page105
 Klein & Elliott quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 46.
 Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting
 R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, , quoting Hunter’s “Annals from Rural Bengal”.
 Ibid,page 44
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 313
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 327
 Ibid,page 19
 Ibid,page 23
 Ibid,page 26
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 325
 Ibid,page 110
 Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 9
 ibid,page 43.
 Ibid,page 43
 Ibid, page 37
 R C Dutt, Indian Famines and Their Causes, page 10
 R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, preface xix
 R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments,
 R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments,
 Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 34,table 4.1,quoting M.Mukherjee
 Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 32
 Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33
 Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33
 Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6
 Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6-7,footnote.
 Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah
 Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah
 Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting Census of India, 1921
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 336,quoting Col.Anderson.
 Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 10
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 49
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 339,quoting Kaiwar
 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 112
 Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602,quoting:IOL, L/MIL/7/13810, Surgeon-General of Bengal to Director-General, Army Medical Department, London, June 9, 1884, Letter 9903-A.
 Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602
 Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602
 K CGhosh,Famine in Bengal 1770-1943,page 83
 S K Datta, The Desire of India ,Page 178-79
 S K Datta, The Desire of India Page 249