Revisiting The Bengal Famine

Just like everyone else in India, I thought Winston Churchill was a great man….. till I read about the Bengal Famine. Winston Churchill was just like Hitler and Stalin – a vile man who created the conditions where millions of innocent people died. Yet he managed to get a Nobel Prize for literature. He is admired around the world as a “great” leader and a great orator. 😔

I had written earlier about the famine during the pandemic – 3 Million Die of Hunger ……355,257 Recoveries. Revisited the tragedy all over again when I read a brilliant thread by @Shrikantha5 on the internal enemies who tried to whitewash Churchill’s role in the famine.

The link to the twitter thread is – Bengal Famine. Reposting it here –

I am rewriting my earlier tweet threads about British complicity in creation of Bengal famine. 
This has references to the literature and primary sources. 
Britain was carried by India through the world wars. #BengalFamine #Colonialism

Indian armed forces grew from 189,000 in 1939 to 2,500,000 in 1945! 

India massively carried Britain on her shoulders.  

War economics of primary producing countries 
by A. R. Prest (1948) 

Britain promised to share the costs.  The deal was that India would incur the costs first and then UK would provide sterling credits later. 

Britain was penniless at that time and India bore the costs.  
(Refer: Churchill’s secret war, Madhusree Mukerjee) 

But Britain provided paper currency instead of sterling (silver). The result was Money supply went up by 7 times. (700%)  

Compare this to money supply growth in India during covid- hardly 1/4 times. (25%) 

Re: War Economics of Primary Producing Countries, Prest

Here is the snapshot of the money supply from the RBI figures. Just note how money supply went up by 666 percent between Aug 1939 and June 1945. 

When money supply of paper currency is increased it results in inflation. This is exactly what happened. There was inflation running into triple digits. 
Defense expenditure went up by 1700%. It was not even our war. Britain stole from India. 

Now we come to Bengal. 

Bengal was to British Empire, what Ukraine is to current Europe.  
Bengal used to supply grains to Asia. British were afraid that INA will free Bengal.  
So British not only stole rice, but also burnt what they could not ship to Europe!

Britain was afraid that Japanese will invade from the east, so all the grain stored in the east was either diverted to WW effort in Europe or simply burnt or destroyed.  

Result was scarcity. 

See how the prices moved up on eastern side. 

This resulted in Bengal Famine. And millions died because of starvation. 

India suffered the biggest casualty of the WW2. 

However, “developmental economists” have ignored this smoking gun.

Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate) fudged that Bengal Famine happened because of hoarding of food by Mawaris.  Amartya Sen absolved British complicity in the crisis they created.  

As per Amartya Sen there was no scarcity of rice!

If there was no scarcity of rice, why did the prices go up. Immediate attention should be on money supply. Since Britain reneged on the promise of silver and instead paid in paper currency, there was massive inflation. It is this inflation that created starvation.

Amartya Sen to prove his theory quoted the official shortfall from the official records at 140,000 tons. However, the document he referred to lists the short fall at 1,400,000 tons!

Amartya Sen argues that it was the entitlement that led to starvation! 
More about that later.  But a factual error needs to be addressed first.  

Refer to the highlighted figure. 

Ref: Poverty and Famines, An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation – By Amartya Sen 

Amartya Sen quotes Document 330, in Transfer of Power. I have soft copy of all the documents with OCR run on them.

Here is the document screenshot.

Bengal Famine

A shortage of 1,400,000 tons in the official figures was cast down as shortage of 140,000 tons by Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate) 

When asked about this, he said it was a typo!

We have typos in “order of magnitude”!  Imagine the other fudging done by the “developmental economists”  I have already provided the Money supply figures. 

Claim that Bengal Famine was due to entitlement of Indians and not due to British design is false.

British engineered a famine in India to make it harder for INA and Japanese army to make advances into Eastern India.  

Indian were expendable for colonials.  
And Amartya Sen fudged his theories.

I can understand why Winston Churchill wanted to take away food from Bengal and let the “natives” die of hunger, but I find it difficult to forgive Amartya Sen. How can he and his kind try and whitewash this tragedy ?

Its hard to read about the famine and even harder to digest the whitewashing done by our own people… घर का भेदी लंका ढाए is so true. As our NSA Mr. Doval said in one of his speeches, India has never lost a war except when internal enemies colluded with the external enemy. Sadly, the tradition continues 😔

7 thoughts on “Revisiting The Bengal Famine”

  1. I don’t know which one is the harder battle ! The external enemy, or the internal. Seems like we could manage to hold our own against invaders, but haven’t been able to shut down the so-called Indian intellectuals who are so ashamed of their own country that they resort to constant mud-slinging and whitewashing !

  2. Bindu,
    My interest in history has opened my eyes to the horrors of war and conquest, especially for civilians caught between warring factions.

    Thank you for this well researched piece on Winston Churchill’s brutal treatment of Bengal. Generally speaking, I have learned the Brits behaved similarly long before that to form what we term the “British Empire” of which North America was one of its prizes (and maybe still is, although we don’t acknowledge it). In fact, empires throughout history were consolidated by over-running existing cultures and taking what the mauraders could steal.

    I’m reading in other places that India now stands in a prime location for negotiating between the various powers warring on her borders. Modi is hailed as a good negotiater. Considering India, too, has a history of British invasion and political/economic oppression, I admire India’s tenacity in holding fast to its ancient heritage.

    • It’s the same with us Katharine. Our interest in history and travel has opened our eyes to the horrors of colonialism and wars.

      Actually colonialism has eroded local cultures and native religions to the detriment of the planet because many native cultures lived sustainably. India was well developed and the richest nation in the world before the Islamic invasions and the British rule.

      We have been partitioned, left penniless and made to feel culturally inferior. That’s a huge price to pay.

      Prime Minister Modi is a good negotiator and a good human being who loves India. Hoping that we stay on our path to being a well developed nation. A lot has been accomplished but a huge lot still needs to be done.

      • You have given me more appreciation for India and its customs and history than anything I’ve read before. It’s because of you that I even know who Modi is.

        There is so much going on in all parts of the world that it’s hard to keep up with even simple things, like the perpetually shifting national borders or names of countries, like Pakistan, or Myanmar, or Burma.

        I’m constantly having to look up names of places and where they are located, or when the names changed.

        And that’s only the beginning of my problems with geography. At least you speak English, since I don’t speak much else, so we can communicate, thanks to you.

      • So glad to hear this Katharine 🤗. As an Indian I will put this down to a karmic connection between us because it’s truly a wonder that you found my blog amongst so many millions of blogs and we got to connect. 🙏

      • I believe in karma, too, and in the interconnectedness of all things, including “significances” that tie different time periods, or geographical locations together in inexplicable patterns.

        I believe we find what we need, in what may seem coincidence. We not only found each other, but we have maintained a sort of connection through several years. This is important to me, “significant”, given the challenges we have had to overcome.

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