Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858

5. Unbewegliche Hinterlassenschaften

7. Famines / by Edward Balfour (1885)

hrsg. von Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Balfour, Edward <1813-1889>: Famines (1885). -- (Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858 / Alois Payer ; 5. Unbewegliche Hinterlasenschaften, 7.). -- Fassung vom 2008-03-31. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen057.htm  

Erstmals publiziert in:

Balfour, Edward <1813-1889>: Cyclopædia of India and of eastern and southern Asia, commercial, industrial and scientific: products of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures / ed. by Edward Balfour. -- 3rd ed. -- London: Quaritch. -- Vol. 1. -- 1885. -- S. 516  - 522.

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-03-31


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008

©opyright: Public Domain

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Famines have repeatedly occurred in S. Asia and in India, owing to the failure of rain, but occasionally aggravated by wars, necessitating an interruption to agricultural operations, and rendered longer distressing by succeeding swarms of insects and rats.

The Rev. Robert Everest seems to have been the first who adduced facts to show that unfavourable seasons in India are periodical. In the report on the Bengal famine of 1860-61, Colonel Baird Smith recommended irrigation, and remarked on the rough periodicity of famines, and it may be said that local famines recur in one part of the country or other every 5, 10, or 15 years, and greater famines occur in successive centuries, at intervals of 50, 100, and 150 years. Dr. W. W. Hunter, about the year 1877, mentioned that the years of famine in the Madras Presidency had been 1811, 1824, 1833, 1854, 1866, and 1877, there being deficient rainfall in preceding years. The years 1810 and 1823 were years of minimum sun spots ; 1832 was a year preceding minimum sun spots; 1853 was the third, and 1865 and 1876 were the second, years preceding minimum sun spots. The average rainfall in Madras from 1813 to 1876 was 48.51 inches, and in all the famine years the rainfall was far below the average. And, from the occurrence of sun spots and of rainfall, between the years 1813 and 1876, he arrived at the conclusion that the minimum period in the cycle of sun spots has been a period of regularly recurring and strongly-marked drought in S. India.

In the past 109 years, 21 famines and scarcities are recorded, making a proportion of two bad seasons to seven good. Of the greater famines there have been eight at intervals which have reached 12 years. Five have afflicted the 19th century, and have affected 202 millions of people. The practical result is that the Indian Government must be prepared for a drought followed by severe distress every twelve years, though an extreme famine may not ravage any one province oftener than once in fifty years. There seems some tendency for a bad year in the north to follow immediately a bad year in the south.

Great famines devastated the N.W. Provinces in 1770, 1783, 1803, 1819, 1837, 1861, and 1877. Droughts of less importance visited the same regions in 1733, 1744, 1752, 1790, 1813, 1826, 1833, and 1873. The less serious droughts occurred at intervals of 6 or 8 years; but at intervals ranging from 13 to 24 years the failures of rainfall have been sufficient to involve a bad famine. Each of the great famines was preluded by years of climatic irregularity, especially noticeable in the case of the famines of 1803, 1837, and 1861 ; the same phenomenon announced the advent of the dearth in 1877 in the N.W. Provinces.

Famines have been recurring in Asia from the most ancient times. [...]

There seems to be no doubt that one of the great historical famines affected India about the year 1631, in the reign of Shah Jahan. During the wars in the Dekhan which that ruler carried on against the Murtazza Nizam Shah of Ahmadnaggur, Muhammad Adal Shah of Bijapur, and Kutub Shah of Golconda, a destructive famine desolated the Dekhan. It began from a failure of the periodical rains of 1629, and was raised to a frightful pitch by a recurrence of the same misfortune in 1630. Thousands of people emigrated, and many perished before they reached more favoured provinces ; vast numbers died at home ; whole districts were depopulated, and some had not recovered at the end of forty years. The famine was accompanied by a total want of forage and by the death of all the cattle; and the miseries of the people were completed by a pestilence, such as is usually the consequence of the other calamities.

[S. 1073] The crops of December 1768 and August 1769 were both scanty, and prices became very high ; and throughout the month of October 1769 hardly a drop of rain fell. The usual refreshing showers of January to May also failed in 1770, in which year until late in May scarcely any rain fell. The famine was felt in all the northern parts of Bengal as early as November 1769, but by the 4th January 1770 the daily deaths from starvation in Patna were up to 60 ; and before the end of May, 150. The tanks were dried up, and the springs had ceased to reach the surface, and before the end of April 1770 famine had spread desolation. In Murshidabad, at length, the dead were left uninterred; dogs, jackals, and vultures were the sole scavengers. Three millions of people were supposed to have perished. It is also said that within the first nine months of 1770, one-third of the entire population of Lower Bengal perished for want of food. According to Grant, one-fifth of the entire population perished; according to Mill, five-eighths ; while Ward and Marshman state one-third. The year 1770 corresponds to the Bengali year 1276, and it is known to this day amongst the people as the Che'hattar Saler Durbhikya Manwantara. It was during the governorship of Mr. Cartier ; his Government did nothing to help the people, and the Company's servants trafficked in grain. The executive civil administration was conducted by native officials, who temporarily remitted £8000 of rent. Another famine occurred in Bengal in A.D. 1783, and again in 1788.

The rains of 1865 were scanty throughout the lower provinces of Bengal and on part of the Madras coast, and in Orissa they ceased on the 14th September. In Orissa the total fall was much below the average, and prices rose to famine rates, and in Balasore and Midnapur grain robberies became frequent. Orissa, 200 miles long, has an area of 8518 square miles, and before the famine its population was estimated at 3,015,826, of whom 814,469 perished and 115,028 emigrated. The deaths were 27 per cent. Of these victims a very large proportion perished in the north-eastern districts of the province. In the Madras division of the country the mortality was lessened by successful measures ; and it is estimated, therefore, with only too much probability, that in some parts of the Bengal division three-fourths of the entire population had been swept away. During the scarcity and famine in Orissa, in Nuddea, and Midnapur, the starving people fled to Calcutta, where not fewer than 20,000 people were at one time fed daily. The two earlier famines of 1789 and 1800 began in the north of the Ganjam district, and increased in intensity towards the south; whilst that of 1836, as in 1866, was felt with greatest severity in Orissa and parts of the district adjacent to Bengal. Cuttack, Puri, and Balasore were the three districts of Orissa omitting the hill tracts in which the famine raged with greatest intensity, and continued longest. Mohurbhunj is a very large territory, covering an area of upwards of 4000 square miles, and the greater part of this tract was included in the area of most severe suffering. In Chutia Nagpur, in which are the districts of Manbhum and Singbhum, the mortality for the famine of 1866 fell on the population about the same as in Orissa.

In 1868 a severe drought prevailed over all Rajputana, the Central Provinces, the N.TV. Provinces, including Meerut and Dehli. The harvest of 1867 was scant, and that of 1868 failed. Rajputana, with its area of desert and its scanty water supply, was most afflicted. It is usual in times of scarcity for the population of the more arid districts to migrate to the more fertile states, but on this occasion all were alike parched by the drought, which was the most calamitous on record. Thousands of the famine-stricken poured into British territory in search of food, greatly aggravating the burden already felt there. In the Central Provinces, the drought, though less severe, was general. The northern parts of the N.W. Provinces, and those bordering on Rajputana, suffered most ; in the Panjab, those south of the Sutlej. The famine of 1868, in Rajputana, in severity surpassed that of 1813, which was the most calamitous in Rajputana of which they had record. It was most severely felt in Marwar, the northern portion of which was deserted.

In 1873, also, in Bengal and Behar, the autumn rains were scanty, and in 1874 frost and west winds dried up the crops. In those two districts a scarcity of rice occurred. Sir George Campbell, then Lieut.-Governor, Sir Richard Temple, and the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook, arranged for the importation of rice, of which half a million of tons were poured into the districts where scarcity prevailed, obtained from the Panjab, N.W. Provinces, Madras, and Burma ; the last-named district alone sent 289,534 tons. Fifty miles of railroad were constructed at the rate of a mile a day ; military officers were employed to aid in the distribution, private charity largely aided, and hardly twenty persons died. The population in reality lived on other grains and pulses. But it cost the Government about nine millions sterling.

Macaulay, noticing the former famine there, says

'In the summer of 1770 the rains failed ; the earth was parched up, the tanks were empty, the rivers shrank within their beds ; and a famine, such as is known only in countries where every household depends for support on its own little patch of cultivation, filled the whole valley of the Ganges with misery and death. Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted before the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw themselves on the earth before the passers-by, and with loud wailings implored a handful of rice for their children. The Hoogly every day rolled down thousands of corpses close to the porticoes and gardens of the English conquerors. The very streets of Calcutta were blocked up by the dying and the dead. The lean and feeble survivors had not energy enough to bear the bodies of their kindred to the funeral pile or to the holy river, or even to scare away the jackals and vultures who fed on human remains in the face of day.' [S. 1075]

1876 S.W. monsoon rains were deficient all over the Madras Presidency and in the Poona district, and the N.E. rains utterly failed. The drought in Bombay extended to nine districts in the Dekhan and Southern Mahratta country, including, Nasik, Ahmadnaggur, Poona, Sholapur, Satara, Kaladgi, Belgaum, and Dharwar ; and adjoining native states, Kolhapur, Phultun, Akulkote, and Sawuntwari, also suffered. The area of this territory, exclusive of native states, comprises about 54,000 square miles, and the total population amounts to eight millions, of which five millions were included in the tracts immediately affected. By October 1876 all the nine of the Bombay Dekhan districts were threatened with famine, as nearly all the monsoon crops had perished, and the spring and summer rains failed, and rain fell short all over India ; there were scarce rains also in Egypt, Morocco, and Brazil. In Madras famine affected the districts of Cuddapah, Bellary, Nellore, Kurnool, Madura, North Arcot, Salem, Chingleput, Coimbatore, Kistna, Trichinopoly, and Tanjore. In Mysore, and also some part of the Nizam's country, the area of the distressed districts amounted approximately to 80,000 square miles, and the total population afflicted to nearly 18 millions.

In the beginning of 1878, a trial census was taken of the districts of N. Arcot, Bellary, Chingleput, Coimbatore, Cuddapah, Kistna, Kurnool, Madras town, Madura, Nellore, and Salem. In these, in 1875-76, the deaths were 840,545 ; but in 1876-77 they increased to 925,103, or 67 per thousand of the population of 13,765,165. According to the estimated population at the end of 1876, the losses were in Bellary 21 per cent. ; Kurnool, 27 per cent. ; Cuddapah, 26 per cent. ; Nellore, 21 per cent ; Coimbatore, 17 per cent. ; Chingleput, 10 per cent. The Salem district estimated population in 1876 was 2,129,850. The actual population on the 14th of March 1878 was 1,559,876, that is, there were 569,956 souls in this one district, or nearly 27 per cent of the people, unaccounted for. And in this Salem district the famine distress was not then over.

In Mysore the January census showed that about 25 per cent., or one-fourth, of the population had melted away, equal to 1,250,000 souls.

In Bombay the average deaths had been 82,909 ; but in the year 1876-77 the mortality was 149,053, and there were 32,054 diminished births.

In Oudh, the N.W. Provinces, the Panjab, and Central Provinces, the deaths were abnormally great.

Great efforts were made to relieve the famine-stricken. The people of Great Britain subscribed about £800,000 ; the Government of India laid out about £10,000,000; and private individuals and the public servants in India vied with each other in efforts to save life.


In Kashmir, also, through the year 1878 it was very severe. The last previous famine in this state was about the middle of the 18th century.

1879. The swarms of rats which from January to March swept through the country between Sind and Madras, are stated by a contemporary to have destroyed quite 50 per cent, of the crops in the agricultural land which they passed over. The length of their journey was not less than 1000 miles.

Sir Arthur Cotton estimated that two acres of rice band will feed seven people for a year; and Mr. Fischer considered that a family of five will consume under 6 lbs. of grain per diem. The fields of India yield abundance of the finer grains, such as rice and wheat, but, except in Burma, these are used only by the well-to-do classes, the producers living on the coarser grains, pulses, and millets. And food at three times its ordinary price, at a season when some months must elapse without relief, means famine in the great majority of cases; while in some cases famine comes long before that rate is reached. When the rate rises to four times the ordinary standard, it is probably accompanied by famine of a very severe description. After the 1877-78 famine in India, a commission was appointed to report how 'Government might by its action diminish the severity of famines.' They calculated that India regularly yields a surplus of food, more than enough to supply a dearth in any particular district. But they avowed their conviction of the incapacity of 'any human endeavours altogether to prevent an increase of mortality during a severe famine,' In 1873 alone, an outlay of six millions and a half sterling averted an increase of mortality. But with the solitary exception of 1878, famine in India has been too strong for the State to bar its devastations. For a famine at Cawnpur, a million and a half sterling of subscriptions was realized and distributed ; 1800 were fed daily, but 1200 persons died.

A larger proportionate expenditure was made by the State on the relief of the famine in Orissa in 1866 than on any previous occasion, yet nearly a million persons died.

By the famine of 1868-69 in the N.W. Provinces and the Panjab, and by the diseases which are the followers of famine, though enormous sums were spent on relief, 1,200,000 lives were lost.

Unless when a region is dependent upon rain for its fertility, and the rainfall fails, the soil in India yields the husbandman his fair return. In Sind the rainfall is always meagre. So Sind has learned to trust to artificial irrigation from the Indus, and Sind is safe from famine. Assam and Burma, the country between the Western Ghats and the sea, [S. 1076] the tract immediately east of the Ghats, the valleys of the Nerbadda and the Tapti, enjoy rains or river floods, which have never deserted them. Eastern Bengal, in the parts between the Ganges and the Jumna, is now completely protected by its irrigation canals. It is the portion of India with a total average rainfall from 20 to 35 inches which is subject to drought when the south-west monsoon fails, and consequently is the prey of famine. No past famine has been more intense than that of 1876-78, so none may exceed it in the future. On that presumption, the largest population likely to be severely affected by famine at one time is put at 30 millions. An estimate for relief on a scale double that given in Madras and Bombay during the last famine, shows four and a half millions as the maximum number of objects of relief in the height of the famine, and from two to two and a half millions as needing aid for the space continuously of a year. For each working adult male of this mass the commissioners compute that a pound and a half of flour or rice is sufficient; for a man doing light work, a pound and a quarter ; and for a man doing none, still less. A woman needs rather less than a man, and children from half to a quarter the quantity, according to age. The commissioners recommended that for all who can work, public work should be provided, at fixed reasonable wages, the same for all, and 'on which life and health can be maintained.' Piece-work, unless as an experiment, they refused to recommend. The works selected should be of permanent utility, and contiguous to the dwellings of those to be employed upon them. The true policy is to begin a series of comprehensive or connected undertakings of permanent utility, and to entrust their construction to professional engineers, who shall take care that none but the able be employed, and that they be paid regularly in money for a fair day's work. An unfinished canal in Orissa in 1871-72 sufficed to irrigate 100,000 acres, on which 750,000 cwt. of rice was grown.

The impression generally prevailing, that the preservation of life by Government measures of relief in Indian famines, is entirely a question of money, is erroneous. The same atmospheric conditions which produce a scarcity of food, produce also epidemic diseases ; secondly, a larger proportion of the mortality of a famine season is due to epidemic diseases than to absolute deficiency of food, although their destructiveness is increased by the people being, from want, less able to withstand them ; and thirdly, a point in the process of chronic starvation, when nutriment can no longer save life, is often reached before the people can obtain, or will seek, relief at a distance from their homes. After the famine of 1877, the Indian Government endeavoured to ascertain approximately the deaths it had caused, and by enumerating certain districts, with the following result:

The immediate effects of famine soon disappear. An Indian population grows normally at the rate of 1½ per cent, per annum, and this proportion is within the mark in ordinary times. And within two years of the great famine of 1877-78 its injuries were no longer apparent, while calamities of other kinds continue to be remembered for long periods.

Army Sanitary Comm. Rep.; As. Soc. Journ.; As. Res.; Hunter's Rural Life in Bengal; Famine Comm. Rep.; India Administration Rep., vol. xii.; Proceedings of the Government of India; Saturday Review, 1878 ; Sanitary Commissioner of Madras, Report; Dr. W. W. Hunter in Geog. Magazine; Montgomery Martin's Famine Chronology, 1640 to 1841; Statistical Journal, 1843, i. 3d series, p. 468; Macmillan's Magazine; Geog. Mag., May 1877 ; Khafi Khan; Elphin. p. 510 ; Ward's Hindoos, iii. p. 107. See Food."

[Quelle: Balfour, Edward <1813-1889>: Cyclopædia of India and of eastern and southern Asia, commercial, industrial and scientific: products of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures / ed. by Edward Balfour. -- 3rd ed. -- London: Quaritch. -- Vol. 1. -- 1885. -- S. 1072 - 1076.]

Zu: 6. Bewegliche Hinterlassenschaften