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The Militant, 4 May 1946

Eugene Varlin

India Famine Fostered
by Imperialist Policies

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 18, 4 May 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


American and British imperialism share responsibility for the famine which threatens 100,000,000 Indian workers and peasants with starvation.

The existence of food shortages that would make famine inevitable if no imports were received was known more than five months ago. In January Indian government officials warned that the impending famine would make the famine of 1943, which snuffed out the lives of 10,000,000 Indians, “look like a picnic.” On February 16, the grain ration of the Indian people was cut from one pound to 12 ounces a day. This already meant semi-starvation.

The next day, Sir Akbar Hydarik, a member of the Indian cabinet, declared that India’s grain shortage amounted to 7,000,000 tons and appealed for help to the Washington-dominated Combined Food Board.

Doomed to Starve

On March 8, Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, head of the Indian Food Mission to the United States, asked the Combined Food Board for 4,000,000 tons of grain to maintain a daily ration of 960 calories. (A grain ration of 960 calories a day means starvation since bed-ridden adults require 1,770 calories a day to exist. Grain constitutes 90 per cent of the diet of the Indian masses.) President Truman assured the Food Mission that “We shall do all we can and more than we have promised.”

The worthlessness of Truman’s promises was clearly demonstrated when the Combined Food Board allocated only 1,400,000 tons of grain to the Indian government. This meant, according to the April 16 N.Y. Times that “India would probably pull through without widespread starvation – provided the imports arrived on a steady basis.” (My emphasis – E.V.)

HOWEVER, OF THE 1,400,000 TONS OF WHEAT ALLOCATED, NOT A SINGLE GRAIN HAS YET BEEN SHIPPED! Moreover, the Combined Food Board has reneged on its promise. On April 13, Glenn H. Craig. U.S. representative on the C.F.B„ said that the board has not "to date recommended an allocation of wheat to India or to any other country.”

Effect of Imperialism

How did the danger of famine arise in the first place? British imperialists blame natural disasters like typhoons and droughts. The rear reasons, however, lie in the effects of British rule upon India and the aggravation of these conditions by the policies of Allied imperialism during the war.

During their centuries of rule, the British imperialists neglected everything but plundering the country. They let the well-developed irrigation system which existed in India before they subjugated the country, break down. Consequently, there has been a continual decline in Indian agricultural production. Today, 35 per cent of the land is unusable. About 30 per cent of the Indian agricultural workers are landless.

In the last 50 years, the daily grain consumption of the population of Madras, which is typical of all India, has decreased from one and a half to only one pound a day. The Indian masses live perpetually on the brink of famine.

Despite the desperate needs of the Indian masses, the British exported grain from India to the Middle East during the war. Huge stocks of food supplies were purchased in India for the British Army, thus forcing grain prices up. Furthermore, the British-controlled provincial governments took part in flagrant profiteering.

Diverted to War

Vast land areas were diverted from grain production to the production of jute for war uses. Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, declared on March 21: “India’s plight comes from what we had done for the Allies during the war, using every effort to help the Allies and not thinking of our own foodstocks ... The present danger of famine arises from these diversions and not from conditions that periodically cause famine in India.” Not natural disasters, but imperialist domination and imperialist war are to blame for impending death by starvation of more millions in India.

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