Headline, September01, 2013

''' !!! DEMO -CRAZY & 


''The Secretary of State for India seems to be a strangely misinformed man.'' wrote The Statesman,  the Calcutta newspaper in a powerfully worded editorial, published on 16 Oct, 1943. It went on to say :
Unless the cables are unfair to him, he told Parliament on Thursday that he understood that the weekly death-toll  -presumably from starvation- 

In Bengal including Calcutta was about 1000, but that it might be higher.
All the publicly available data indicate that it is very much higher; and his great office ought to afford him ample means of discovery.

Two days later the Governor of Bengal Sir T. Rutherford, wrote to the Secretary of State for India:

Your statement about the number of deaths, which was presumably based on my communication to the Viceroy, has been severely criticised in some of the papers........The full effects of the storage are now being felt, and I would put the death-roll now at no less than 2000 a week.

The famine Inquiry Commission that reported on the famine in Dec 1945 concluded that in the period July-December 1943,  1,304, 323 deaths were recorded as against an average of  626,048 in the same period in the same quinquennium, and it concluded that the number of further deaths due to the famine was over 678,000. The amount to a weekly death toll not very close to 1000 or 2,000, but rather larger than 26,000 every week.

The Bengal famine of 1943, was made viable not only by the lack of Democracy in colonial India, but also the very severe restrictions on reporting and criticism imposed on the Indian press, and the voluntary practice of 'silence' on the famine that the British-owned media chose to follow. The combined effect of imposed and voluntary media silence was to prevent substantial public discussion on the famine in metropolitan Britain, 

Including in Parliament in London, which neither discussed the famine, nor considered the policy needs of dealing with it   -that is not until Oct 1943, when The Statesman forced its hand.  There was of course no parliament in India under the British Colonial Administration.

In fact, governmental policy, far from being helpful, actually exacerbated the famine. There was no official famine relief over the many months in which thousands were dying every week. More than this, the famine was aggravated, first, by the fact that the British India Government in New Delhi had suspended the trade in rice and food grains between the provinces, so that food could not move through legitimate channels of private trade despite the much higher price of food in Bengal.

Second, rather than trying to get more food into Bengal from abroad  -the New Delhi colonial administration was adamant that it did not want to do that-  the official policy took the form of looking for food exports out of Bengal over that period :
Indeed,  even as late as January 1943, when the famine was about to break, the Viceroy of India told the head of the local Bengal government that he 'simply must produce some more rice out of Bengal for Ceylon even if Bengal itself went short!!??

But in all fairness, it must be mentioned here, to make any kind of sense of British official thinking on the subject, that the policies were based on the idea that there was no particular decline in food output in Bengal at that time, and  ''therefore'' a famine  'simply could not occur' there. The government understanding of the volume of the food output was not altogether wrong, 

But its theory of famine was disastrously mistaken, since the demand for food had radically expanded primarily because of the war effort in Bengal, with the arrival of soldiers and other war personnel, new construction and ancillary economic activities associated with the war boom.

What was extraordinary, even beyond the colonial government's belief in a wrong theory of famine, was New Delhi's inability to notice that so many thousands were actually dying on the streets every day; the officers had to be real  ''theorists''  to miss the facts on the ground in such a gross way.

A democratic system with public criticism and parliamentary pressure would not have allowed the officials, including the Governor of Bengal and the Viceroy of India, to think the way they did!
Responsible discussions on what to do began on October 1943, after Ian Stephens, the courageous Editor of The Statesman of Calcutta  -then British owned-  decided to break ranks by departing from the voluntary policy of silence and publishing graphic accounts and stinging editorials on 14 and 16 October.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Malaysia. See ya all on the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless : ''The Honour & Service Conscious''

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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