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.

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