Bengal Famine of 1943

More than three million Bengali perished in a 1943 famine that remains one of the worst catastrophes in the history of modern India. Later studies revealed that starvation was, to a considerable degree, man-made, and occurred despite the fact that food was actually available. While other factors such as low rice yield (due to the spread of a brown spot disease and a severe cyclone that flooded large parts of the rice plantations at Bengal’s east coast in 1942) did play a role, the enormous scale of the famine was to a great degree caused by the poor management of the British colonial government. Due not least to wartime calculations and the British fear of a Japanese invasion, British rule forbade Bengal from creating any food stocks during the war years. In spite of decreasing food imports during the war, food could still have been sufficient, but too few Bengalis could access it. The famine became one of the most studied in history.

Further Readings: 
  • Das, Debarshi. “A Relook at Bengal Famine.” Economic and Political Weekly 43, no. 31 (2008): 59-64. View PDF
  • Sen, Amartya. Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.