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1770 Great Bengal famine

1770 Great Bengal famine
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1770 Great Bengal famine

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The Bengal Famine of 1770 (Bengali: Chiẏāttôrer mônnôntôr, lit. The Famine of 76) was a famine that struck the Bengal region between 1769 and 1770 (1176 to 1177 in the Bengali calendar) and affected some 30 million people. It occurred during a period of dual governance in Bengal. This existed after the East India Company had been granted the diwani, or the right to collect revenue in Bengal by the Mughal emperor in Delhi, but before it had wrested the nizamat, or control of civil administration, which continued to lie with the Mughal governor, the Nawab of Bengal.Crop failure in autumn 1768 and summer 1769 and an accompanying smallpox epidemic were thought to be the manifest reasons for the famine. The Company had farmed out tax collection on account of a shortage of trained administrators, and the prevailing uncertainty may have worsened the famine's impact. Other factors adding to the pressure were: grain merchants ceased offering grain advances to peasants, but the market mechanism for exporting the merchants' grain to other regions remained in place; the Company purchased a large portion of rice for its army; and the Company's private servants and their Indian Gomasthas created local monopolies of grain. By the end of 1769 rice prices had risen two-fold, and in 1770 they rose a further three-fold. In Bihar, the continual passage of armies in the already drought-stricken countryside worsened the conditions. The Company provided little mitigation through direct relief efforts; nor did it reduce taxes, though its options to do so may have been limited.By the summer of 1770 people were dying everywhere. Although the monsoon immediately after did bring plentiful rains, it also brought diseases to which many among the enfeebled fell victim. For several years thereafter piracy increased on the Hooghly river delta. Deserted and overgrown villages were a common sight. Depopulation, however, was uneven, affecting north Bengal and Bihar severely, central Bengal moderately, and eastern only slightly. The recovery was also quicker in the well-watered Bengal delta in the east.Between seven and ten million people—or between a quarter and third of the presidency's population—were thought to have died. The loss to cultivation was estimated to be a third of the total cultivation. Some scholars consider these numbers to be exaggerated in large part because reliable demographic information had been lacking in 1770. Even so, the famine devastated traditional ways of life in the affected regions. It proved disastrous to the mulberries and cotton grown in Bengal; as a result, a large proportion of the dead were spinners and weavers who had no reserves of food. The famine hastened the end of dual governance in Bengal, the Company becoming the sole administrator soon after. Its cultural impact was felt long afterwards, becoming the subject a century later of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's influential novel Anandamath.

Source: Wikipedia

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