Winston Churchill's Policies Caused the 1943 Bengal Famine, Says New Study
The study found that five out of six famines were largely caused by droughts, but in 1943, at the height of the Bengal famine, rain levels were above average.
File photo from the Bengal Famine (Twitter)
A study has found that Winston Churchill's policies caused the great Bengal famine of 1943 that claimed more than 3 million Indian lives.
According to the new study, which was conducted by researchers in India and the United States, soil analysis of the famine-affected region exposed a fresh origin theory of the disaster, news organisation CNN reported.
The report states that the 1943 Bengal famine was the only famine in modern Indian history not to occur as a result of a serious drought.
"This was a unique famine, caused by policy failure instead of any drought," Vimal Mishra, the lead researcher and an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, told CNN.
Adopting the need to gather a fresh perspective, the researchers used weather data to measure the amount of moisture in the soil between 1870 and 1943 – a period that saw six major famines in the subcontinent.
For Mishra and his team, the fact that there have been no famines since Independence was the starting point. "We started our research thinking the famines would have been caused by drought due to factors such as lack of irrigation," Mishra said.
The study, now published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that five out six famines were largely caused by droughts, but in 1943, at the height of the Bengal famine, rain levels were above average.
"The Bengal famine of 1943 was completely because of policy failure," Mishra said.
He added that policy lapses such as prioritizing distribution of vital supplies to the military, stopping rice imports and sheer ignorance to a humanitarian crisis famine were among the factors that led to the magnitude of the tragedy.
Policy as an effective stimulant to famines was one of the main findings of the study. Mishra said comprehensively examining previous famines suggested that "the 1873-74 famine, where about 25 million people were affected, mortality was almost negligible."
According to Mishra, the low mortality was due to food imports from Myanmar and relief aid provided by the British government.
Furthermore, the British government also criticized its own people who imported and distributed food and relief money and thus saved a lot of lives, he said. Upon knowledge, these policies were dropped and millions more died.
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