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07/08/2017 BBC - Soutik Biswas's India: How Churchill 'starved' India

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How Churchill 'starved' India About this blog

Soutik Biswas | 15:50 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

I'm Soutik Biswas
and Im the online
It is 1943, the peak of the Second World correspondent for
War. The place is London. The British War BBC News in India.
Cabinet is holding meetings on a famine This blog is my take
sweeping its troubled colony, India. on life and times in
Millions of natives mainly in eastern the worlds largest
Bengal, are starving. Leopold Amery, democracy.
secretary of state for India, and Field
Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell, soon to be For the latest updates across BBC blogs,
appointed the new viceroy of India, are visit the Blogs homepage.
deliberating how to ship more food to the
colony. But the irascible Prime Minister
Winston Churchill is coming in their way.
Subscribe to Soutik Biswas's India

"Apparently it is more important to save the Greeks and liberated countries than the You can stay up to date with Soutik
Indians and there is reluctance either to provide shipping or to reduce stocks in this Biswas's India via these feeds.
country," writes Sir Wavell in his account of the meetings. Mr Amery is more direct.
"Winston may be right in saying that the starvation of anyhow under-fed Bengalis is less Soutik Biswas's India Feed (RSS)
serious than sturdy Greeks, but he makes no sufficient allowance for the sense of Empire Soutik Biswas's India Feed (ATOM)
responsibility in this country," he writes.
If you aren't sure what RSS is you'll find
Some three million Indians died in the famine of 1943. The majority of the deaths were in our beginner's guide to RSS useful.
Bengal. In a shocking new book, Churchill's Secret War, journalist Madhusree Mukherjee
blames Mr Churchill's policies for being largely responsible for one of the worst famines in
India's history. It is a gripping and scholarly investigation into what must count as one of
Latest from BBC News blogs
the most shameful chapters in the history of the Empire.
Nick Robinson:
The scarcity, Mukherjee writes, was caused by large-scale exports of food from India for
"Britain is standing by to give
use in the war theatres and consumption in Britain - India exported more than 70,000
more money to the IMF so that
tonnes of rice between January and July 1943, even as the famine set in. This would have
it can, in turn, lend more
kept nearly 400,000 people alive for a full year. Mr Churchill turned down fervent pleas to
export food to India citing a shortage of ships - this when shiploads of Australian wheat,
for example, would pass by India to be stored for future consumption in Europe. As Douglas Fraser:
imports dropped, prices shot up and hoarders made a killing. Mr Churchill also pushed a "With a mighty thud, the
scorched earth policy - which went by the sinister name of Denial Policy - in coastal Ledger has been slammed
Bengal where the colonisers feared the Japanese would land. So authorities removed shut. Thanks for reading it. But
boats (the lifeline of the region) and the police destroyed and seized rice stocks. it's not finished - far..."

Mukherjee tracks down some of the survivors of the famine and paints a chilling tale of Brian Taylor:
the effects of hunger and deprivation. Parents dumped their starving children into rivers "Thank you for reading my
and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people blog. It has now moved to a
begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, new home, with a fresh
yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones. "No one format. Visit my..."
had the strength to perform rites," a survivor tells Mukherjee. Dogs and jackals feasted on
Betsan Powys:
piles of dead bodies in Bengal's villages. The ones who got away were men who migrated
"It was an inspired
to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. "Mothers
conversation. What shall we
had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of
call a blog written by someone
daughters," writes Mukherjee.
called Betsan? How about ...
The famine ended at the end of the year when survivors harvested their rice crop. The
first shipments of barley and wheat reached those in need only in November, by which Richard Black:
time tens of thousands had already perished. Throughout the autumn of 1943, the United "Thanks for having read my
Kingdom's food and raw materials stockpile for its 47 million people - 14 million fewer blog over the last few years.
than that of Bengal - swelled to 18.5m tonnes. 1/2
07/08/2017 BBC - Soutik Biswas's India: How Churchill 'starved' India
In the end, Mukherjee writes eloquently, it was "not As of today, it is moving to a
so much racism as the imbalance of power inherent in new..."
the social Darwinian pyramid that explains why
Jonathan Amos:
famine could be tolerated in India while bread
"Things are changing. The
rationing was regarded as an intolerable deprivation
BBC's Spaceman has been
in wartime Britain". For colonial apologists, the book
assigned a new ship for his
is essential reading. It is a terrifying account of how
thoughts. So, as of today,
colonial rule is direly exploitative and, in this case,
made worse by a man who made no bones of his
contempt for India and its people. Our blog about issues in News
Our blog about issues in Sport
Our blog about photos and News
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