Bengal famine of 1943

Famine in British India during World War II

The Bengal famine of 1943 (Bengali: পঞ্চাশের মন্বন্তর pônchasher mônnôntôr) was a major famine of the Bengal province[B] in British India during World War II. An estimated 2.1–3 million, out of a population of 60.3 million, died of starvation, or of malaria and other diseases aggravated by malnutrition, population displacement, unsanitary conditions and lack of health care. Millions were impoverished as the crisis overwhelmed large segments of the economy and social fabric. Historians have frequently characterised the famine as "man-made",[C] asserting that wartime colonial policies created and then exacerbated the crisis. A minority view holds that the famine arose from natural causes.


  • Corpses lay scattered over several thousand square miles of devastated land. 7,400 villages were partly or wholly destroyed by the storm, and standing flood waters remained for weeks in at least 1,600 villages. Cholera, dysentery and other water-borne diseases flourished. 527,000 houses and 1,900 schools were lost. Over 1000 square miles of the most fertile paddy land in the province was entirely destroyed, and the standing crop over an additional 3000 square miles was damaged.[171]
    • Mukherjee, Janam (2015). Hungry Bengal: War, Famine and the End of Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-061306-8.
  • Husbands deserted wives and wives husbands; elderly dependents were left behind in the villages; babies and young children were sometimes abandoned. According to a survey carried out in Calcutta during the latter half of 1943, some breaking up of the family had occurred in about half the destitute population which reached the city.[235]
    • Famine Inquiry Commission (May 1945). Report on Bengal (PDF). New Delhi: Manager of Publications, Government of India Press.
  • Bengal is a vast cremation ground, a meeting place for ghosts and evil spirits, a land so overrun by dogs, jackals and vultures that it makes one wonder whether the Bengalis are really alive or have become ghosts from some distant epoch.[246]
    • Bose, Sugata (1990). "Starvation amidst Plenty: The Making of Famine in Bengal, Honan and Tonkin, 1942–45". Modern Asian Studies. 24 (4): 699–727. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00010556.
  • Conditions in certain famine hospitals at this time ... were indescribably bad ... Visitors were horrified by the state of the wards and patients, the ubiquitous filth, and the lack of adequate care and treatment ... [In hospitals all across Bengal, the] condition of patients was usually appalling, a large proportion suffering from acute emaciation, with 'famine diarrhoea' ... Sanitary conditions in nearly all temporary indoor institutions were very bad to start with ...[249]
    • Famine Inquiry Commission (May 1945). Report on Bengal (PDF). New Delhi: Manager of Publications, Government of India Press.
  • The robbing of graveyards for clothes, disrobing of men and women in out of way places for clothes … and minor riotings here and there have been reported. Stray news has also come that women have committed suicide for want of cloth ... Thousands of men and women … cannot go out to attend their usual work outside for want of a piece of cloth to wrap round their loins.[89]
    • Natarajan, M. S. (1946). Some Aspects of the Indian War Economy. Baroda, India: Padmaja Publications. OCLC 25849883.
  • The Moslem proselytizers would not give a morsel of food to the dying Hindu mothers or their children, would rather stand watching them breathing their last and would save them, from that dire agony only if those unfortunate Hindu women and children renounced their cherished Hindu faith and accepted the Moslem religion before they fell victim to death. These nefarious activities are glorified as religious conversions and cherished tacitly or otherwise as justified means of gaining further political strength by the Moslem community as a whole. Hundreds of famished Hindu children are bought as you buy vegetables or picked up by the roadside and sent to conversion centres by those proselytizing Moslem agencies. The public every now and then shudders to read incidents reported from these starving parts to the effect that vultures or foxes or wolves keep watching the dying human beings and drag children even before they breathe their last to feast themselves on human flesh. Are these wild hearts anyway more beastly than those human beings who as religious apostles keep watching helpless Hindu women and children suffering from the terrible agonies of hunger but would not rescue them unless and until they were spiritually dead and these servants of God could drag them into their Islamic fold.
    • V.D. Savarkar, Historic Statements, pp. 60–61. quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 (2021) Savarkar alleged that there was a massive Muslim conspiracy to convert several hundreds of starving Hindu women and children to Islam with the lure of food.
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