ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Bengal Famine of 1943 and Aftermath

Updated on October 4, 2016

What Happened in Bengal in 1943?

India was still under British rule and the fight for Independence was at its peak. The state of Bengal, which was later divided into West Bengal and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), had for a long time almost single-handedly led the struggle for freedom.

From Womesh Chandra Banerjee, the first president of the Indian National Congress and Swami Vivekanand to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the state produced some of the greatest warriors for India's struggle against an oppressive rule.

Just when things looked like they were going in the right direction, the state was hit by the most unfortunate and devastating famine in the history of India. After the Japanese invasion of Burma during World War II, things became disastrous for the locals.

Although food production had been more than the previous years, the decision by the British Empire to take away 60% of the harvest to feed its soldiers to fight against the Japanese army proved to be catastrophic. According to an article published in the Revolvy1, about 3 million people lost their lives due to starvation, malnutrition and diseases.

The Havoc that Followed

Due to the lack of sources back then, the actual number of casualties couldn't be reported and that made the matters worse. Even today, the exact figures are not available and it is estimated that the death toll was between 1.5 million to 4 million.

Given that the total population of the state back then was about 60 million, these are some serious numbers. Further casualties were reported because of food borne diseases, when it actually became available for the people in December 1943. The highest mortality rates were not seen in the very poor groups but among the artisans and small traders, as people started spending all their money on food, while they remained unemployed.

Urban Development in India: Global Indians in the Remaking of Kolkata2, by Pablo Shiladitya Bose, explains how the crisis of 1943 shook the economy of the state, as it led to the increase in the number of refugees, causing a decline both in social and political terms. Before it could have recovered from this incident, the partition of the state that took place four years later made matters even worse.

How Poor Management Acted as a Catalyst

In those days, concepts like term insurance plans and financial security didn't exist. According to an article published in Globalsecurity.org3, one half of the families, i.e., about 7,500,000 households were dependent solely on agriculture for income. The reduction in supply against the increasing demand led to the crisis.

Rice, which is the most common food of the region, saw a poor or indifferent crop in the preceding year of 1942, and the cyclone in the month of October in the same year destroyed the reserve stocks of the cultivators and dealers. About 50% to 90% of the rice varieties were damaged by the fungus, Cochliobolus miyabeanus.

Despite being aware of all these facts, the ruling government took a majority of the stock away from the citizens. Everyone was aware that the shortage of food could only be met by providing more resources, yet the people were given money to buy food at higher prices. The impact was felt in the other states too and soon it turned into a national problem.

Calcutta, the second largest city in the country had only two weeks' worth of food stock left in March 1943 and it only speaks for the tenacity of the people that the state was able to overcome the adversity and stand firm today. In the present day, you have some of the best term insurance and life insurance plans that are seeing people through adversity. In fact, the floods in Chennai in 2015 saw insurance claims worth Rs. 4,800 crores being paid out by insurance companies, according to experts at Life Insurance Company.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)