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Sikkim Earthquake (2011)

Sikkim Earthquake (2011)

When everyone was in peace enjoying their Sunday eve with some tea and snacks, an earthquake triggered named as Sikkim Earthquake or the Himalayan Earthquake with the epicenter as Kanchenjunga Conservation Area near the border of Nepal and Sikkim (a state of India) of a magnitude of 6.9 on 18th September, 2011 at around 18:10 IST. The shocks of this earthquake were felt on North eastern parts of India, southern Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

On an average about 110 people were killed of which most deaths were from Sikkim state of India, in East Sikkim districts and Singtam. 11 people were reported to be dead from Nepal when the wall of British Embassy in Katmandu got collapsed. Other than this, several buildings and houses were collapsed in Gangtok city. Not only in Sikkim and Nepal various monuments and buildings were destructed in Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet and another 7 were declared dead from these countries.

This earthquake hit the Himalayan region just after a few days of an earthquake of 4.2 magnitudes in Sonipat District of Haryana that felt few shocks in Delhi as well. And exactly after a yaer, on 18th September, 2012 cam another earthquake of 4.1 magnitudes that hit Sikkim sparking a few shocks among people reminding them of the original earthquake of 2011. A few considered it as an anniversary of last year’s Himalayan earthquake.

The magnitude 6.9 earthquake occurred inland at 18:10 IST on 18 September 2011, about 68 km northwest of Gangtok, Sikkim at a shallow depth of 19.7 km. At its location, the continental Indian and Eurasian Plates converge with one another along a tectonic boundary beneath the mountainous region of northeast India near the Nepal border. Although earthquakes in this region are usually interpolate in nature, preliminary data suggests the Sikkim earthquake was triggered by shallow strike-slip faulting from an interpolate source within the over-riding Eurasian Plate. Initial analyses also indicate a complex origin, with the perceived tremor likely being a result of two separate events occurring close together in time at similar focal depth.

The earthquake struck near a mountainous, albeit very populous region near the Sikkim–Nepal border; most of the structures were reported to be highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking. Upon impact, tens of thousands of residents evacuated their homes, and many areas suffered from communication and power outages. The strong shaking caused significant building collapse and mudslides; at least 111 people were confirmed killed by the effects of the earthquake, and hundreds of others sustained injuries. As the earthquake occurred in the monsoon season, heavy rain and landslides rendered rescue work more difficult.

Sikkim Earthquake (2011)

India: In India, property damage is estimated to be around ₹1,000 billion (US$16 billion) with the actual report yet to come. Northern India suffered the most from the earthquake, with at least 75 people killed. 60 people were reportedly killed in Sikkim alone. At least 7 people have died in Bihar, while 6 deaths have been reported from West Bengal. Power supply was disrupted in areas near Sikkim, including Kalimpong of Darjeeling district, and adjoining Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts; the outages were in part blamed on an affected electric substation in Siliguri. Water supply was interrupted in Sikkim. National Highway 31, the major highway linking Sikkim to the rest of India, was damaged. Ten of the dead were workers at a hydroelectric project on the Teesta River.

Nepal: In the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, damage from the earthquake was comparatively limited. Three people were killed when a wall at the British Embassy collapsed, and many others suffered injuries. The shaking effects were more severe in eastern Nepal, which is closer to the epicenter. There, hundreds of homes sustained significant damage, and due to saturated soil from preceding heavy rains widespread mudslides impacted the region. Sunsari experienced power and telephone communication outages. Two people were killed in the eastern city of Dharan. Overall, in Nepal 6 people died due to the earthquake.

Bhutan: There were no reports of casualties in Bhutan, although cracks on walls and ceilings of houses were reported in Wangthangkha village, Lango and the town area in Paro. There were also reports of a landslide right after crossing the Isuna Bridge from Paro towards Thimphu, and falling boulders after crossing Chundzom Bridge. Citizens were asked to avoid traveling on the Paro-Thimphu highway. Telecommunications networks were disrupted, with cellular networks unavailable after the quake. Prime Minister of Bhutan Jigmi Thinley updated in his status as “Phone lines remains clogged reflecting our caring and close knit society. No damage reported from East Bhutan. Four road blocks caused by falling debris are reported on the Chukha – Phuntsholing road. Two homes in Haa report damage with 3–4 people having suffered minor injury. Thimphu Dzong has sustained some cracks in the Utse and one of the four corner towers. Occupants have been moved out to safer parts. Please remain calm and alert.

Early rescue operations included four teams of National Disaster Response Force been rushed to Sikkim and five more teams were being sent from Kolkata. However, South and West Sikkim remained inaccessible delaying rescue operations owing to landslides caused by rainfall. A group of 14 tourists were rescued by the army from north Sikkim. The army had deployed 72 columns including infantry troops, combat engineers, four Dhruv and five Cheetah helicopters. Rain and landslides had hampered the rescue efforts of workers searching for survivors.

Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, on 19 September, announced ₹200,000 (US$3,100) as ex-gratia to a family member of those killed in the earthquake and ₹100,000 (US$1,600) for seriously injured. ₹50,000 (US$780) for those grievously injured and ₹25,000 (US$390) for those with minor injuries was announced by Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling.

Maharashtra Floods of 2005

The Maharashtra Floods are referred to as the floods that occurred in various parts of Maharashtra, India. This included most of the area of metropolis city Mumbai located on the west coast of India beside the Arabian Sea. Because of these floods on an average 1100 people were found dead and many were left homeless. This disaster came just after a month of Gujarat Floods of June 2005. This day is remembered by many as the standstill day for all Mumbaikars (people of Mumbai).

Maharashtra Floods of 2005

A large number of people were standing on roads, lost their homes, while many walked long distances back home from work that evening. The floods were caused by the eighth heaviest-ever recorded 24-hour rainfall figure of 944 mm (37.17 inches) which lashed the metropolis on 26 July 2005, and intermittently continued for the next day. 644mm (25.35 inches) was received within the 12-hour period between 8 am and 8 pm. Torrential rainfall continued for the next week.

The highest 24-hour period in India was 1,168 mm (46.0 inches) in Aminidivi in the Union Territory of Lakshadweepon 6 May 2004 although some reports suggest that it was a new Indian record. The previous record high rainfall in a 24-hour period for Mumbai was 575 mm. Other places severely affected were RaigadChiplun, Khed Ratna 31 July after heavy rains disrupted the city once again, grounding all flights for the day.

On 26 July 2005, around 2:00 pm, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was struck by a severe storm and subsequent deluge. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) station in Santacruz recorded 944 mm. of rain for the 24 hours ending at 8:30 a.m. on 27 July. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM] control room started receiving phone calls reporting the heavy rain and subsequent water logging in suburban areas.

Local train movement came to a halt by 2:30 p.m. due to the water-logging on the tracks. This caused traffic on roads to increase dramatically with water logging and submerging of certain low-lying pockets of the region, such as Dharavi and Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Thousands of school children were stranded due to flooding and could not reach home for up to 24 hours. The following two days were declared as school and college holidays by the state government.

The rain water caused the sewage system to overflow and all water lines were contaminated. The Government ordered all housing societies to add chlorine to their water tanks while they decontaminated the water supply.

Development in certain parts of Mumbai is haphazard and buildings are constructed without proper planning. The drainage plans in northern suburbs is chalked out as and when required in a particular area and not from an overall point of view.

The Environment Ministry of the Government of India was informed in the early 1990s that sanctioning the Bandra-Kurla complex (a commercial complex in northern Mumbai) was leading to disaster. No environment clearance is mandatory for large urban construction projects in northern Mumbai. Officials in the environment ministry claimed that it was not practical to impose new guidelines with retrospective effect “as there are millions of buildings”.

For the first time ever, Mumbai’s airports ( Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Juhu aerodrome) were shut for more than 30 hours due to heavy flooding of the runways, submerged Instrument Landing System equipment and extremely poor visibility. Over 700 flights were cancelled or delayed. The airports reopened on the morning of 28 July 2005.[2] Within 24 hours of the airports becoming operational, there were 185 departures and 184 arrivals, including international flights. Again from early morning of 31 July, with increase in water logging of the runways and different parts of Mumbai, most of the flights were indefinitely cancelled.

Rail links were disrupted, and reports on late evening of 30 July indicated cancellation of several long distance trains till 6 August 2005. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which witnessed a number of landslides, was closed the first time ever in its history, for 24 hours. According to the Hindustan Times, an unprecedented 5 million mobile and 2.3 million MTNL landline users were hit for over four hours. According to the .in registrar (personal communication), the .in DNS servers in Mumbai had to be reconfigured because the servers were not operational.

The floods have been the subject of research by scientists and social scientists attempting to understand the causes, impacts, and short/long term consequences. Scholars have studied the floods in Mumbai from the perspectives of climate change, disaster management / mitigation, urban health, vulnerability and adaptation, hydrology, environmental degradation and encroachment etc. Kapil Gupta (2007) assesses urban flood resilience, while Andharia (2006) contrasts the “widespread acts of generosity and altruism” in Mumbai with the general social disorder that was seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Aromar Revi (2005) draws lessons from the floods for prioritising multi-hazard risk mitigation. Parthasarathy (2009) links social and environmental insecurities to show that the most marginalized groups were also the most affected by the floods.

Climate change has played an important role in causing large-scale floods across central India, especially the Mumbai floods of 2005. During 1901–2015, there has been a three-fold rise in widespread extreme rainfall events, over the entire central belt of India from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar, leading to a steady rise in the number of flash floods. The rising number of extreme rain events is attributed to an increase in the fluctuations of the monsoon westerly winds, due to increased warming in the Arabian Sea. This results in occasional surges of moisture transport from the Arabian Sea to the subcontinent, resulting in widespread heavy rains lasting for 2–3 days. The Mumbai 2005 floods also occurred due to moisture surge from the Arabian Sea, and the heavy rains were not confined to Mumbai but spread over a large region across central India.


Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (2004)

On 26th December occurred the Indian Ocean Earthquake with the west coast of Indonesia as the epicenter. This is considered as the most deadly disaster in the history of mankind killing about 280k people from 14 different countries. Indonesia was the most destructed country because of the Tsunami caused by this earthquake followed by Sri Lanka and India. Scientist and weather forecasts consider this as the 3rd largest earthquake read by a seismograph ever.

This earthquake was triggered when the Indian tectonic plate was subducted by the Burma tectonic plate because of which these Tsunamis were triggered causing disaster and killing lakhs of people with the waves of up to 30 meters of height. This shock has a moment magnitude of 9.2 (approx.). This caused the entire planet to vibrate and slip up to 1 cm and caused other earthquakes as well, far away from the epicenter, as far as to Alaska.

The most disastrous earthquake triggered the largest Tsunami in 40 years in the Indian Ocean since 1883. Some reached even up to 3000 miles from Sumatra, Indonesia (epicenter of the earthquake) that is located about 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra underwater at a distance of about 6.2 miles. This was the largest time faulting with a time span of about 10 minutes.

The regions has been struck by numerous aftershocks-note the table and map below. Much like a zipper the quakes initially progressed north along the fault to the Andaman Island Region.

A tsunami is not a single wave, but a series of traveling ocean waves generated by geological disturbances near or below the ocean floor. With nothing to stop them, these waves race across the ocean until they reach shore where they slow down and rise up in height.

Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (2004)

Most tsunamis are triggered by large undersea earthquakes but they can be caused by landslides, volcanoes or even meteor impacts. The last large tsunami in the region was due to the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, due to the collapse of that volcano during an explosive eruption.

In this case the ocean bottom shifted displacing sea water in the ocean basin. The bigger the earthquake, the more the Earth’s crust shifts and the more seawater begins to move. A quake of this magnitude typically shifts the earth surface by up to 10-20 meters. In this case the rupture was up to 400 miles long, leading to a massive region of the ocean bottom shifting. The waves traveled outward just like those from throwing a rock into the water. Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific because the ocean basin is rimmed by the Ring of Fire, a long chain of the Earth’s most seismically active spots. In a tsunami, waves typically radiate out in directions opposite from the seismic disturbance. In the case of the Sumatra quake, the seismic fault ran north to south beneath the ocean floor, while the tsunami waves traveled mainly west and east.

Tsunamis are distinguished from normal coastal surf by their great length, width and speed. A single wave in a tsunami series might be 100 miles long and race across the ocean at 600 mph. When it approaches a coastline, the wave slows dramatically, but it also rises to great heights because the enormous volume of water piles up in shallow coastal bays. Unlike ordinary waves tsunamis do not break on the coastline every few seconds. Because of their size, it might take an hour for another one to arrive.

There unusual speed and wavelength allow tsunamis to be identified by buoys moored in the ocean. Although seismic networks recorded Sunday’s massive earthquake, there were no wave sensors in the Indian Ocean region and no means to determine the existence or direction a tsunami would travel. Thus, no warnings were issued. A single wave station south of the earthquake’s epicenter registered tsunami activity less than 2 feet high heading south toward Australia, researchers said.

The Pacific Ocean does have a Tsunami warning system.  The international warning system was started in 1965, the year after tsunamis associated with a magnitude 9.2 temblor struck Alaska in 1964. It is administered by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Member states include all the major Pacific Rim nations in North America, Asia and South America was well as the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand.

A lot of industries were shut down because their products wiped away with water in Tsunami and the demand also increased rapidly with decrease in the quantity available for use. This boomed the Sri Lankan and the Indian market as well.

14 Billion US Dollars (2004) were collected for the ailment of this disaster. A large team was needed for the cure of patients. A majority of people were then suffering from various types of diseases like Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Diarrhea, Typhoid and Dysentery. Although there were severe chances of increment in the number of dead people but all this was handled with the help of different agencies, both government and private.

The main concern at that time was to provide proper sanitation facilities, fresh drinking water, healthy diet and required medicines. A few days were spent in burying dead bodies to avoid skin infections and other diseases caused by them. The World Food Program provided food to over 13 lakh people. Countries including Australia, United States, Canada, Norway, Germany etc. along with World Bank donated a lot of money for the ailment of affected people. India and Indonesia were in a lot of trouble because they are not Tsunami prone areas and didn’t had all required resources at once and even didn’t had many of them even today because they are a lot costlier than the afforded price they can pay.


One of the most dangerous cyclones of all time was originated in the Andaman Sea in October 2014 that caused huge damage and loss of lives in eastern coasts of India and Nepal. This cyclone got originated under low-pressure system in the Andaman Sea on 6th October because of the influence of upper-air circulation. It then turned into a cyclonic storm on 8th October and became a destructive severe cyclonic storm on 9th October. IMD classified Hudhud as one of the most dangerous and severe cyclones of all time.


It hit hard the coasts of Vizag and near districts like Srikakulam and Viziangaram in Andhra Pradesh. Hudhud underwent rapid deepening in the following days and was classified as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm by the IMD. Shortly before landfall near VisakhapatnamAndhra Pradesh, on October 12, Hudhud reached its peak strength with three-minute wind speeds of 185 km/h (115 mph) and a minimum central pressure of 960 mbar (28.35 inHg). The system then drifted northwards towards Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, causing widespread rains in both areas and heavy snowfall in the latter.

Hudhud caused extensive damage to the city of Visakhapatnam and the neighboring districts of Vizianagaram and Srikakulam of Andhra Pradesh. Damages were estimated to be ₹21908 crore (US$3.4 billion) by the Andhra state government. At least 124 deaths have been confirmed, a majority of them from Andhra Pradesh and Nepal, with the latter experiencing an avalanche due to the cyclone.

Halfway around the world, Cyclone Hudhud is causing widespread damage to the east coast of India. Hudhud moved inland earlier this morning, bringing wind gusts of 120 mph that uprooted trees and damaged houses in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. According to The Weather Channel, at least six people are dead, despite the mass evacuations. Widespread power outages have prevented communication, so the extent of the damage is somewhat unknown. Authorities are asking people not to leave their homes, and damage assessments will begin Monday. The storm has weekend since it moved inland, but high winds and heavy rainfall are expected to continue impacting the area.

According to the IMD, peak wind speeds will drop to 60 kph by Monday afternoon. Hudhud is expected to continue to dump heavy rains in northern and northeastern India and, eventually, snow when it reaches the Himalayan Mountains.

According to the Impact Forecasting catastrophe report, Cyclone Hudhud that hit four states of India and killed 68 people, caused economic losses of around INR700 billion (US$11 billion) with insured losses estimated to be in the region of INR40 billion ($650 million), as commercial, residential and agricultural lines of business were heavily impacted.

As the cyclone ‘Hudhud’ is closing in on the Andhra Pradesh coastline and is expected to make a landfall near Visakhapatnam by tomorrow afternoon, about 1.11 lakh people in five coastal districts have been shifted to safer places.

The government has made arrangements to evacuate 5,14,725 people in all, officials said, while the Army and the Navy have kept their personnel on stand-by for rescue and relief operations.

According to the reports received by the state Disaster Management Commissioner A R Sukumar, 35,000 persons have been evacuated in Srikakulam district, 6,000 in Vizianagaram, 15,000 in Visakhapatnam, 50,000 in East Godavari and 5,000 in the West Godavari district.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been reviewing the situation with top officials and requested the ISRO to provide satellite images of Hudhud’s course.

In all, 436 villages across 64 mandals in the five districts have been identified as exposed to the threat of cyclone. The government has identified 370 relief camps for the evacuated people in these districts.

A senior official of the disaster management department here said 13 NDRF teams have been deployed in the districts while the Indian Air Force is moving three helicopters from the Yelahanka air base to Visakhapatnam.

Army personnel have been kept ready in Visakhapatnam, while the Eastern Naval Command has kept four ships on stand-by, equipped with rescue equipment and relief materials.

Six aircraft are standing by at the Naval Air Station INS Dega to undertake reconnaissance, rescue, casualty evacuation and air drop of relief materials.

Early on October 10, the JTWC classified the storm as a Category 1 tropical cyclone after it formed a microwave eye feature and was located in an environment favorable for further intensification with moderate wind shear. The IMD upgraded Hudhud to a very severe cyclonic storm later the same day, and the JTWC further upgraded the storm to a Category 2 tropical cyclone.

On October 11, Hudhud underwent rapid intensification and developed an eye at its center. In the following hours, the storm reached its peak intensity with a minimum central pressure of 950 mbar (28.05 in Hg) and three-minute average wind speeds of 185 km/h (115 mph). Maintaining intensity, it made landfall over Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh at noon of October 12, near 17.7°N 83.3°E. The maximum wind gust recorded by the High Wind Speed Recorder (HWSR) instrument of the Cyclone Warning Center in Visakhapatnam was 260 km/h (160 mph). Measured by the Doppler weather radar stationed in the city, the storm’s eye was 66 km (41 mi) in diameter. The strength of the winds disrupted telecommunication lines and damaged the Doppler radar, inhibiting further observations.

Bringing extensive damage to the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, Hudhud gradually weakened as it curved northwards over land. The storm continued its weakening trend and was last noted as a well-marked low pressure area over east Uttar Pradesh on October 14. Unlike most BoB storms that dissipate quickly over land, Hudhud has been the only TC whose remnant ever reached as far north as the Himalayas.



The Great Famine of 1876–78 (also the Southern India famine of 1876–78 or the Madras famine of 1877) was a famine in India that began in 1876 and affected south and southwestern India (Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Bombay) for a period of two years. In its second year famine also spread north to some regions of the Central Provinces and the North-Western Provinces, and to a small area in the Punjab. The famine ultimately covered an area of 670,000 square kilometers (257,000 sq. mi) and caused distress to a population totaling 58,500,000. The death toll from this famine is estimated to be in the range of 5.5 million people.

Great Famine of 1876–78

In part, the Great Famine may have been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau. But, the regular export of grain by the colonial government; during the famine, the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4 million hundredweight (320,000 ton) of wheat, this weakens the rich cultural and economic strength especially of southern India. However, the cultivation of alternate cash crops, in addition to the commodification of grain, played a significant role in the events.

The famine occurred at a time when the colonial government was attempting to reduce expenses on welfare. Earlier, in the Bihar famine of 1873–74, severe mortality had been avoided by importing rice from Burma. However, the Government of Bengal and its Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Richard Temple, were criticized for excessive expenditure on charitable relief. Sensitive to any renewed accusations of excess in 1876, Temple, who was now Famine Commissioner for the Government of India, insisted not only on a policy of laissez-faire with respect to the trade in grain but also on stricter standards of qualification for relief and on more meager relief rations. Two kinds of relief were offered: “relief works” for able-bodied men, women, and working children, and gratuitous (or charitable) relief for small children, the elderly, and the indigent.

The insistence on more rigorous tests for qualification, however, led to strikes by “relief workers” in the Bombay presidency. Furthermore, in January 1877, Temple reduced the wage for a day’s hard work in the relief camps in Madras and Bombay—this ‘Temple wage’ consisted of 450 grams (1 lb) of grain plus one anna for a man, and a slightly reduced amount for a woman or working child, for a “long day of hard labour without shade or rest.” The rationale behind the reduced wage, which was in keeping with a prevailing belief of the time, was that any excessive payment might create ‘dependency‘ (or “demoralization” in contemporaneous usage) among the famine-afflicted population.

Temple’s recommendations were opposed by a number of officials, including William Digby and the physician W. R. Cornish, Sanitary Commissioner for the Madras Presidency. Cornish argued for a minimum of 680 grams (1.5 lb) of grain and, in addition, supplements of vegetables and protein, especially if the individuals were performing strenuous labor in the relief works. However, Lytton supported Temple, who argued that “everything must be subordinated to the financial consideration of disbursing the smallest sum of money.”

Eventually, in March 1877, the provincial government of Madras increased the ration halfway towards Cornish’s recommendations, to 570 grams of grain and 43 grams of protein in the form of daal (pulses). Meanwhile, many more people had succumbed to the famine. In other parts of India, such as the United Provinces, where relief was meager, the resulting mortality was high. In the autumn and winter of 1878, an epidemic of malaria killed many more that were already weakened by malnutrition.

By early 1877, Temple proclaimed that he had put “the famine under control.” Digby noted that “a famine can scarcely be said to be adequately controlled which leaves one-fourth of the people dead.”

All in all, the Government of India spent Rs. 8 1/30 million in relieving 700 million units (1 unit = relief for 1 person for 1 day) in British India and, in addition, another Rs. 7.2 million in relieving 72 million units in the princely states of Mysore and Hyderabad. Revenue (tax) payments to the amount of Rs. 6 million were either not enforced or postponed until the following year, and charitable donations from Great Britain and the colonies totaled Rs. 8.4 million. However, this cost was minuscule per capita; for example, the expenditure incurred in the Bombay Presidency was less than one-fifth of that in the Bihar famine of 1873–74, which affected a smaller area and did not last as long.

The mortality in the famine was in the range of 5.5 million people. The excessive mortality and the renewed questions of “relief and protection” that were asked in its wake, led directly to the constituting of the Famine Commission of 1880 and to the eventual adoption of the Provisional Famine Code in British India. After the famine, a large number of agricultural laborers and handloom weavers in South India immigrated to British tropical colonies to work as indentured laborers in plantations. The excessive mortality in the famine also neutralized the natural population growth in the Bombay and Madras presidencies during the decade between the first and second censuses of British India in 1871 and 1881 respectively. The famine lives on in the Tamil and other literary traditions. A large number of Kummi folk songs describing this famine have been documented.

The Great Famine was to have a lasting political impact on events in India. Among the British administrators in India who were unsettled by the official reactions to the famine and, in particular by the stifling of the official debate about the best form of famine relief, were William Wedderburn and A. O. Hume. Less than a decade later, they would found the Indian National Congress and, in turn, influence a generation of Indian nationalists. Among the latter were Dadabhai Naoroji and Romesh Chunder Dutt for whom the Great Famine would become a cornerstone of the economic critique of the British Raj.


floods of north india

A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India's longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 60 people and left tens of thousands stranded, officials said on June 18, 2013. Picture taken June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: DISASTER RELIGION ENVIRONMENT) - RTX10TOR

In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centered on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides becoming the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. The reason the floods occurred was that the rainfall received was on a larger scale than the regular rainfall the state usually received. The debris blocked up the rivers, causing major overflow. The main day of the flood is said to be on 16 June 2013. Though some parts of Himachal PradeshHaryanaDelhi and Uttar Pradesh in India experienced the heavy rainfall, some regions of Western Nepal and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall, over 89% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand. As of 16 July 2013, according to figures provided by the Uttarakhand government, more than 5,700 people were “presumed dead. This total included 934 local residents.

floods of north india

A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India’s longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 60 people and left tens of thousands stranded, officials said on June 18, 2013. The picture was taken June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA)

Destruction of bridges and roads left about 100,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in the valleys leading to three of the four Hindu Chota Char Dham pilgrimage sites. The Indian Air Force, the Indian Army, and paramilitary troops evacuated more than 110,000 people from the flood-ravaged area.

From 14 to 17 June 2013, the Indian state of Uttarakhand and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall, which was about 375% more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800 metres, and eruption of the Mandakini River which led to heavy floods near Gobindghat, Kedar DomeRudraprayag districtUttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet.

The upper Himalayan territories of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are full of forests and snow-covered mountains and thus remain relatively inaccessible. They are home to several major and historic Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage sites besides several tourist spots and trekking trails. Heavy rainfall for four consecutive days as well as melting snow aggravated the floods. Warnings by the India Meteorological Department predicting heavy rains were not given wide publicity beforehand, causing thousands of people to be caught unaware, resulting in huge loss of life and property.

About 6000 citizens of Nepal were visiting the Indian region, of which 1,000 were rescued as of 22 June 2013. Flooding of the Dhauliganga and the Mahakali rivers had caused extensive damage, with reports of 128 houses and 13 government offices swept away and over 1000 people homeless. A bridge that joins the India-Nepal border is highly damaged or destroyed.

The ArmyAir ForceNavyIndo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security ForceNational Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations. Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions. Activists of political and social organizations were also involved in the rescue and management of relief centers. The national highway and other important roads were closed to regular traffic. Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, maneuvering them was a challenge. By 21 June 2013, the Army had deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters, the Navy had sent 45 naval divers, and the Air force had deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters. From 17 to 30 June 2013, the IAF airlifted a total of 18,424 people – flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,36,930 kg of relief material and equipment.

Even after a week, dead bodies had not been removed from Kedarnath town, resulting in water contamination in the Kedarnath valley and villagers who depend on spring water suffered various types of health problems like fever, diarrhea. When the flood receded, satellite images showed one new stream at Kedarnath town. No damage at the Kedarnath Temple occurred. The Uttarakhand Government announced that due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure, the temple will be temporarily closed to regular pilgrims and tourists for a year or two, but the temple rituals will still be maintained by priests. The Temple opened for pilgrims on Sunday, 4 May 2014.

Landslides, due to the floods, damaged several houses and structures, killing those who were trapped. The heavy rains resulted in large flashfloods and massive landslides. Entire villages and settlements such as Gaurikund and the market town of Ram Bada, a transition point to Kedarnath, had been obliterated, while the market town of Sonprayag suffered heavy damage and loss of lives. Pilgrimage centers in the region, including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the hallowed Hindu Chardham (four sites) pilgrimage centers, are usually visited by thousands of devotees, especially after the month of July onwards. Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads. People in other important locations like the Valley of flowers, Roopkund and the Sikh pilgrimage center Hemkund were stranded for more than three days. National Highway 58, an important artery connecting the region was also washed away near Jyotirmath and in many other places. Because summers have a number of tourists, the number of people impacted is substantial. For more than three days, stranded pilgrims and tourists were without rations or survived on little food.

On 25 June, one of 3 IAF Mil Mi-17 rescue helicopters returning from Kedarnath, carrying 5 Air Force Officers, 9 of the NDRF, and 6 of the ITBP crashed on a mountainous slope near Gauri Kund, killing all on board. The deceased soldiers were given a ceremonial Guard of honor by Home minister of India, at a function organized by the Uttarakhand State Government.

Indo Tibetan border police (ITBP) a Force which guards the Indo China borders on the high Himalayas with its 3 Regional Response Centers (RRCs) based at Matli (Uttarkashi), Gauchar (Chamoli) and Pithoragarh swung into action and started rescue and relief operation. 2000 strong ITBP force with its mountaineering skills and improvisation methods started rescue of stranded pilgrims. It was a simultaneous effort by ITBP at Kedar ghati, Gangotri valley, and Govind ghat areas. According to official figures by ITBP, they were able to rescue 33,009 pilgrims in 15 days on their own from extremely remote and inaccessible areas.Before Army or Air Force called in, being deployed in the nearby areas, ITBP took the first call and saved many lives.

Eastern India Storm (2010)

At approximately 11 pm local time, 13 April 2010, a severe storm struck parts of Bangladesh and eastern India. It lasted about 90 minutes, with the most intense portion spanning 30–40 minutes. As of 16 April, more than 140 deaths have been reported. At least 91 people died in the Indian state of Bihar, 44 in West Bengal, and 4 in Assam. In Bangladesh, five deaths and two hundred injuries were reported. Most of the deaths were women and children crushed when their huts were destroyed. Over 91,000 dwellings were destroyed in India and several thousand in Bangladesh; approximately 300,000 dwellings were at least partially damaged. Both mud and pucca housing were damaged by the storm. Nearly 500,000 people were left homeless or otherwise affected by the storm.

Eastern India Storm (2010)

According to local officials, the storm was an extreme nor ‘ester commonly formed over the Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year. Meteorologist S.I. Laskar said the storm was due to an unstable atmosphere caused by excessive heat and humidity. “It is quite normal in the pre-monsoon season,” he added. The severity of the storm was likely due to wind pulling the moisture from the Bay of Bengal northward to north Bihar, where it converged with another cloud formation to form a 20 km tall cloud mass. The cool air in the clouds was met by hot air rising from the ground, which caused the storm to start rotating. Although thunderstorms had been predicted, the severity of the storm was unexpected.

Although not a tropical cyclone, the storm brought back memories of Cyclone Aila, which killed 155 people in the same area in May 2009. One eyewitness described the storm: “It was all dark. I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die.” Locals received no warning of the impending storm and were mostly sleeping when the storm hit, increasing the casualties. Out-dated equipment with limited capabilities was blamed for the lack of warnings.

The storm spawned a large tornado, which lasted about 20 minutes. It was the first tornado recorded in Bihar history. Tornadoes are a very rare occurrence in India – the last one was in 1998. Radar equipment which could have provided early warning had arrived in the area but had not yet been installed because the building to house it was still under construction. The storm occurred during a heat wave with temperatures greater than 40 °C (104 °F) reported. West Bengal regional weather office director Gokul Chandra Debnath said that the heatwave “could have been a catalyst … that triggered the tornado”. The amount of damage caused directly by the tornado is unknown.

The storm struck in northeastern parts of West Bengal and Bihar states, with winds estimated at 120–160 kilometers/hour (75–100 miles/hour), and then moved into Bangladesh. The strong winds uprooted trees, displaced rooftops, and snapped telephone and electricity lines. The worst damage was reported in the towns of HemtabadIslampurKaliaganjKarandighi, and RaiganjPurina had the most reported casualties. Power was lost throughout the area, and communication was difficult due to severed phone lines and damaged rail lines. Nepal, which relies on India for part of its power generation, was also affected by the outages.

In Araria district, a jail was partially destroyed causing the transfer of 600+ inmates to another facility. In Rangpur, a police officer was killed and five others injured when a wall of the Rangpur Police Line building collapsed. The police barracks in Raiganj, which houses 300 officers, were partially destroyed. Several other police buildings had their roofs blown away.

The initial strong winds were followed by heavy rains, causing further damage to weakened structures. Widespread damage to crops and livestock was also reported in both West Bengal and Bihar, as well as in Bangladesh. More than 8,000 hectares of maize was destroyed in West Bengal. More than 4,000 hectares of maize and boro was destroyed in Bangladesh. In Assam, paddy crops, bananas, and other vegetation were damaged. Assam crops were already in poor shape due to earlier hail storms before 13 April storm and were further damaged by another strong storm on 15 April.

Rescue efforts have been inhibited as many roads, including National Highway 34, are blocked by downed trees and telephone poles. Medical personnel and supplies were quickly rushed to the affected areas, and aid packages were announced. Aid workers began to distribute rice, dried fruits, water, and temporary tarpaulin shelters on 15 April. However, many remote regions remained inaccessible as of 16 April. Aid workers said that hundreds of thousands of victims had not received any relief by 16 April. Another rainstorm on 15 April added to frustrations.

On 16 April, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an ex gratia payment Rs 100,000 to the next of kin to persons killed in the storm. The money will come from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. In the Lok Sabha, members have taken turns blaming each other’s political parties for the delays. On 19 April, The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) asked for the central assistance of Rs 10 billion for Bihar and Rs 5 billion for West Bengal. Prashanta Mazumdar additionally asked for government workers to assess the damage and distribute relief. Indian National Congress (INC) member Deepa Dasmunshi countered by saying the state administration had failed miserably. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) leader Sudip Bandopadhyay agreed and added that the CPM was “more involved in state terrorism” against political opponents than the distribution of aid.[24] The CPM responded that West Bengal had done its best to provide relief. Dasmunshi strongly disagreed, claiming “not even one tarpaulin or piece of cloth has reached the victims. The state government has failed.” The CPM and other left parties accused Dasmunshi and Bandopadhyay of “playing politics at the cost of human lives”. Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav demanded that the House have a more thorough discussion on the matter


Bihar floods of 2008

Morigaon: Wild buffaloes marooned at the inundated Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district of Assam on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI8_14_2017_000181B)

The 2008 Bihar flood was one of the most disastrous floods in the history of Bihar, an impoverished and densely populated state in India. The Kosi embankment near the Indo-Nepal border (at Kusaha VDC, Sunsari district, Nepal) broke on 18 August 2008. The river changed course and flooded areas which had not been flooded in many decades. The flood affected over 2.3 million people in the northern part of Bihar.

On 18 August 2008, heavy monsoon rains and poor maintenance caused a breach in the Kosi embankment. Water passed through the breach at an estimated 129,800 m³/second, flooding many villages in Nepal and hundreds of villages in northern Bihar. The flood submerged most of the Kosi alluvial fan area, which is very fertile, with a dense agrarian population.

Bihar floods of 2008

Morigaon: Wild buffaloes marooned at the inundated Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district of Assam on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI8_14_2017_000181B)

The Kosi River‘s upper basin in southern Tibet and eastern Nepal drains some 60,000 km² of mountainous terrain, a region that tectonic forces are elevating by about 1 cm a year. If erosion keeps pace with geologic uplift, an estimated 600 million cubic meters of sediment would be carried downstream in an average year. However, empirical measurements of the river’s sediment load have yielded estimates of 100 million cubic meters annually, indicating that the area is rising.

River gradient ranges from more than 10 meters/km for major upper tributaries in the mountains to as little as 6 cm/km as the lower Kosi nears the Ganges. As the gradient decreases on the plains, current slows and turbulence that holds sediments in suspension diminishes. Sediments settle out and are deposited on the riverbed. This process eventually raises a channel above the surrounding terrain. The river breaks out, seeking lower terrain, which it again proceeds to elevate by deposition. This creates a cone-shaped alluvial fan. The Kosi alluvial fan is one of the largest in the world, covering some 15,000 km² and extending 180 km from the outermost foothills of the Himalayas to the Ganges river valley.

Flood waters naturally spread out over the surface of this cone. Flows over 25000 m³/s have been measured where the Kosi exits the Himalayan foothills, enough to create a flow of water 30 km wide. At this rate, in one week enough water would accumulate to cover the entire mega fan to a depth of 1.5 meters.

Preventative flood control measures include upstream reservoirs that can also serve irrigation needs and produce hydroelectric power. However, in Nepal these are mostly in the planning stages.[11] The flood control measures mainly consist of downstream embankments meant to confine the river to a fixed channel. In theory, the faster flow along this channel would carry high flows away and keep sediments in suspension.

On 18 August 2008 one of the man-made embankments got failed. The river reverted from the prescribed western channel to an old channel near the centre of its alluvial fan. The river spread out widely and flooded towns, villages, and cultivated fields on the densely populated alluvial fan. Recurrent flooding on the lower Kosi contributes largely to India’s history of suffering more flood deaths than any other country except Bangladesh, and has earned the Kosi the epithet “The Sorrow of Bihar”.

Flooding occurred throughout the Kosi River valley in northern Bihar, in the districts of SupaulArariaSaharsaMadhepuraBhagalpur, West Champaran and Purnea.

The flood killed 250 people and forced nearly 3 million people from their homes in Bihar. More than 300,000 houses were destroyed and at least 340,000 hectares (840,000 acres) of crops were damaged. Villagers in Bihar ate raw rice and flour mixed with polluted water. Hunger and disease were widespread. The Supaul district was the worst-hit; surging waters swamped 1,000 square kilometres (247,000 acres) of farmlands, destroying crops

It affected six districts in Nepal. Approximately 53,800 Nepalese (11,572 households) were affected by the Koshi floods in Sunsari District, according to the Government of Nepal (GoN). Koshi Wildlife Reserve along the Koshi River was severely impacted by the floods including its wildlife and biodiversity.

In response to the disaster, widely reported as the region’s worst flood in 50 years, Nitish KumarChief Minister of Bihar, met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his help in dealing with the “catastrophe”.

The Prime Minister declared a “natural calamity” on 28 August and earmarked US$230 million in aid for the region. Rescue operations were carried out by the Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and non-government organizations. Indian Air Force helicopters dropped relief supplies in the worst-hit districts. Mumbai Fire Brigade sent a 22-member disaster management team to help in relief work.

Chief Minister Kumar requested a rehabilitation package of Rs 145 billion from the central government for the flood ravaged Kosi region.

The Bihar government returned funds from Gujarat for relief work because of purported differences with the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.

On 1 September, describing the floods as a “disaster,” the Dalai Lama gave 1,000,000 rupees to the Bihar government for relief work.

The Government of Bihar initiated Kosi Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme covering 30,000 affected families in Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura district based on a pilot project implemented by ODR Collaborative, a network of organisations, supporting the Government and an owner driven reconstruction policy was formulated to support each family with Rs. 55,000 to construct their own house. After signing an agreement with the World Bank in January 2011, this programme has been upscaled to cover 100,000 families for reconstruction of hazard safe houses.

The cost per house will be Rs. 55,000 ($1200) with an additional cost of Rs. 2,300 ($50) for a toilet and Rs. 5,000 ($110) for solar powered lighting. In cases where beneficiaries do not own land, the Government of Bihar will provide additional assistance of Rs. 5000 ($110) for the people to buy the land. Towards this project, the World Bank is contributing $220 million. The Government of Bihar has also partnered with ODR Collaborative and UNDP to continue the social and technical facilitation and capacity building for this ‘owner driven reconstruction’ programme. Technical guidelines have been brought out to enable owners to build houses with various local materials including bamboo.

The rehabilitation work has been incredibly slow. Out of a total 100,000 houses to be built by the Government in the Kosi region comprising MadhepuraSaharsaand Supaul districts, only 12,500 were built till February 2014.


The Bhopal Gas Tragedy or the Bhopal Disaster is considered as the world’s worst industrial disaster in the history of mankind. This disaster occurred on the night of 2nd December 1984 in Bhopal (present capital of Madhya Pradesh) at UCIL (Union Carbide India Ltd.). The people around the industry were exposed to methyl isocyanate and some other types of chemicals as well. These chemicals were spread all over the shanty towers and other areas around the plant. Although not many people were dead immediately more than five lakhs became victims of these chemicals and suffered a lot. The government and survey team confirmed a total of 3787 deaths.

bhopal tragedy

The estimate of victims was not cleared before but later the number was found to be more than five lakh. Out of this, about 39 thousand people were partially injured and about four thousand had permanent diseases and injuries. Since the tragedy, around 14 thousand people had died out of which two thousand died immediately and about eight thousand died within a week or so after the disaster.

The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank, triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) contends water entered the tank through an act of sabotage.

The owner of the factory, UCIL, was majority owned by UCC, with Indian Government-controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake. In 1989, UCC paid $470 million ($907 million in 2014 dollars) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. In 1994, UCC sold its stake in UCIL to Eveready Industries India Limited (EIIL), which subsequently merged with McLeod Russel (India) Ltd. Eveready ended clean-up on the site in 1998 when it terminated its 99-year lease and turned over control of the site to the state government of Madhya Pradesh. Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001, seventeen years after the disaster.

Civil and criminal cases were filed in the District Court of Bhopal, India, involving UCC and Warren Anderson, UCC CEO at the time of the disaster. In June 2010, seven former employees, including the former UCIL chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by Indian law. An eighth former employee was also convicted but died before the judgment was passed.  Anderson died on 29 September 2014.

There are two main lines of an argument involving the disaster. The “Corporate Negligence” point of view argues that the disaster was caused by a potent combination of under-maintained and decaying facilities, a weak attitude towards safety, and an undertrained workforce, culminating in worker actions that inadvertently enabled water to penetrate the MIC tanks in the absence of properly working safeguards.

The “Worker Sabotage” point of view argues that it was not physically possible for the water to enter the tank without concerted human effort, and that extensive testimony and engineering analysis leads to a conclusion that water entered the tank when a rogue individual employee hooked a water hose directly to an empty valve on the side of the tank. This point of view further argues that the Indian government took extensive actions to hide this possibility in order to attach blame to UCC.

Theories differ as to how the water entered the tank. At the time, workers were cleaning out a clogged pipe with water about 400 feet from the tank. They claimed that they were not told to isolate the tank with a pipe slip-blind plate. The operators assumed that owing to bad maintenance and leaking valves, it was possible for the water to leak into the tank.

This water entry route could not be reproduced despite strenuous efforts by motivated parties. UCC claims that a “disgruntled worker” deliberately connecting a hose to a pressure gauge connection was the real cause.

Early the next morning, a UCIL manager asked the instrument engineer to replace the gauge. UCIL’s investigation team found no evidence of the necessary connection; the investigation was totally controlled by the government, denying UCC investigators access to the tank or interviews with the operators.

The corporation denied the claim that the valves on the tank were malfunctioning, and claimed that the documented evidence gathered after the incident showed that the valve close to the plant’s water-washing operation was closed and was leak-tight. Furthermore, process safety systems had prevented water from entering the tank by accident. Carbide states that the safety concerns identified in 1982 were all allayed before 1984 and had nothing to do with the incident.

The company admitted that the safety systems in place would not have been able to prevent a chemical reaction of that magnitude from causing a leak. According to Carbide, “in designing the plant’s safety systems, a chemical reaction of this magnitude was not factored in” because “the tank’s gas storage system was designed to automatically prevent such a large amount of water from being inadvertently introduced into the system” and “process safety systems—in place and operational—would have prevented water from entering the tank by accident”. Instead, they claim that “employee sabotage—not faulty design or operation—was the cause of the tragedy”.

UCC chairman and CEO Warren Anderson were arrested and released on bail by the Madhya Pradesh Police in Bhopal on 7 December 1984. Anderson was taken to UCC’s house after which he was released six hours later on $2,100 bail and flown out on a government plane. These actions were allegedly taken under the direction of the chief secretary of the state, who was possibly instructed from chief minister’s office, who himself flew out of Bhopal immediately. Later in 1987, the Indian government summoned Anderson, eight other executives and two company affiliates with homicide charges to appear in Indian court. In response, Union Carbide said the company is not under Indian jurisdiction.

During the World War II, the Bengal province saw one of the deadliest famines in Bengal of British India during 1943-44. People were all dead and the number got an increment with time. On an estimate almost 2.1 million were dead, the deaths first occurring from starvation and then from various kinds of diseases including malaria, smallpox, cholera, kala-azar, dysentery, etc. Not only this, many died because of unitary conditions, lack of treatment, malnutrition and population displacement. As the diseases and famine were increased to more areas, all this led to the economic inequality.


The people of Bengal were dependent on farmland and producing, storing and maintaining various kinds of crops. Since almost 10 years people were in a crisis and a few had started to starve because of improper food and malnutrition. Almost half of them had lost their crops and farmland. There was some cause behind this including dense population, land grabbing by powerful and bad agricultural practices. Peasants were forced to work without any payment and the one who refused to do so was brutally beaten and threatened by the British officials.

Other than the government threatening and de-peasantisation there was some natural disaster on a small scale that caused damage to crops and economy. In a short span of time, the natural disasters namely cyclone, flood, storm surges and rice crop disease and five consequences of war were responsible for this famine.

The economy faced the loss of rice crops due to natural disasters and some diseases and simultaneously when Japanese conquered Burma (present Myanmar) that led to destruction and disruption of market supplies and many means of transport were shut down.

Later, massive inflation brought on by repeated policy failures, war profiteeringspeculation, and perhaps hoarding. Finally, the government prioritized military and defense needs over those of the rural poor, allocating medical care and food immensely in the favor of the military, laborers in military industries, and civil servants.

All of these factors were further compounded by restricted access to grain: domestic sources were constrained by emergency inter-provincial trade barriers, while access to international sources was largely denied by the War Cabinet of Great Britain. The relative impact of each of these contributing factors to the death toll and economic devastation is still a matter of controversy. Different analyses frame the famine against natural, economic, or political causes.

The government was slow to supply humanitarian aid, at first using propaganda to discourage hoarding. It attempted to drive rice paddy prices down through price controls and a series of procurement schemes. Price controls merely created a thriving black market and encouraged cautious sellers to withhold their stocks; moreover, prices soared when the controls were abandoned. Relief efforts in the form of gruel kitchens, agricultural loans and test works were both insufficient and ineffective through the worst months of the food crisis phase.

Despite having a long-established and detailed Famine Code that would have triggered a sizable increase in aid, the provincial government never formally declared a state of famine. Relief efforts increased significantly when the military took control of crisis relief in October 1943, and more effective aid arrived after a record rice harvest that December. Deaths from starvation began to decline, but “very substantially more than half” of the famine-related fatalities were caused by disease in 1944, after the food security crisis had subsided.

Despite the organized and sometimes violent civil unrest just prior to the famine, there was no organized rioting when the famine took hold. However, social disruption was deep and widespread: families disintegrated, with cases of wives and children being abandoned, child-selling, infanticide, and both voluntary and forced prostitution. Lines of small children begging could stretch for miles outside of cities; at night, children could be heard “crying bitterly and coughing terribly … in the pouring monsoon rain … stark naked, homeless, motherless, fatherless and friendless. Their sole possession was an empty tin”. A schoolteacher in Mahisadal witnessed “children picking and eating undigested grains out of a beggar’s diarrheal discharge”. Author Freda Bedi wrote that it was “not just the problem of rice and the availability of rice. It was the problem of society in fragments.’’

Until the military assumed control of relief efforts in September 1943, government aid seldom provided much help to the rural poor, directing most of its cash and grain supplies instead to the relatively wealthy landowners and urban bhadraloks. After an initial spate of humanitarian aid for the cyclone-stricken areas around Midnapore in October 1942, the government response was slow, and relief efforts were very limited until April 1943. The response was slowed both by a failure to grasp the nature and scope of the problem and by political factors brought on by a public propaganda campaign declaring “sufficiency” in Bengal’s rice supply, denying that there had been any significant crop shortfall, and blaming rising prices on war profiteering and hoarding.

In April, more cash and grain began to flow to the outlying areas, but relief efforts were misdirected. Famine relief came in three major forms: agricultural loans (for the purchase of paddy seed, plow cattle, and maintenance expenses), gratuitous relief, and test works. Agricultural loans offered no assistance to the large numbers of rural poor who had little or no land. Grain relief was divided between cheap grain shops and the open market, with far more going to the markets. Supplying grain to the markets was intended to lower grain prices, but did not accomplish that aim, instead of putting rural poor in direct competition with wealthier Bengalis at greatly inflated prices.

As the depth and scope of the famine became unmistakable, the government began setting up gruel kitchens in August 1943; the gruel, which often provided barely a survival-level caloric intake, was sometimes unfit for consumption – moldy or contaminated with dirt, sand, and gravel. Despite a long-established and detailed Famine Code that would have triggered a sizable increase in aid, and a statement privately circulated by the government in June 1943 that a state of famine might need to be formally declared, this never happened. Significant aid was not provided until the military took over crisis relief in October 1943, especially after November. In particular, grain was imported from the Punjab, and medical resources were made far more available. However, effective relief from the food crisis came from a record rice harvest that December