Essay # 1
(c) Ravages of insects and vermin.
In former times famines were considered to be punishment sent by God.
What the British have done to prevent and alleviate famine in
Famines occur when there is a scarcity of food supplies in a particular district or country. They are due to a variety of causes. They are usually caused in India by drought or deficient rainfall, or by heavy rains and consequent floods. Among other causes may be mentioned the ravages of insects and vermin, and the laying waste of a country in time of war. In northern China famine has been caused by the destruction of forests, especially on hillsides, giving rise to drought. Diminution of the rainfall in certain districts of India has been ascribed to the same cause.
Formerly famines were universally regarded as instruments whereby God punished mankind for their sins, and in India, there are still many who attribute these disasters to the anger of the: Almighty. Whatever may be said in favour of this view, it must be admitted to be unfortunate in one respect. If it is granted that: famine is sent by Heaven for the chastisement of mankind it is obviously of no use to fight against it or to take measures to aid the famine-stricken. In former times the people of India would often remain passive under such visitations. Many died of starvation who might have been saved, and many more fell victims to the horrible diseases which so often follow in the train of famines.
As famines are due mainly to climatic causes, it is obvious that they cannot be wholly prevented. For example, Egypt depends on the annual rise of the Nile for its harvests, and India on the timely; breaking of the monsoon. But in both these countries, much has been done by British enterprise and engineering skill to prevent famines and to banish their chief horrors when they appear. In Egypt, the great Aswan dam, and other lesser works of a similar kind, hold up a large amount of the flood water of the Nile and store it for distribution over the land when the rise of the Nile fails. This ensures a steady water supply for the fields of the Fallah throughout the year.
In India, the wonderful system of irrigation Canals in Punjab (the most extensive and remarkable in the World) and in other parts of the country, have done much to make these lands safe from famine, and have brought under cultivation millions of acres of formerly barren desert. And when the failure of the monsoon does cause a failure of the crops in unirrigated areas, the Government system of famine relief saves the lives of the people and supports them during the famine period, without ruining their characters by pauperizing them. In old days in India, famine meant the starvation and death of thousands; today it means simply the interruption of the industry of agriculture, thanks to railways, relief works, and organization.
Essay # 2
India has always been subject to Famines.
Modern famines are less disastrous than those of former days, because of:
(a) Improved means of communication.
(b) The system of famine relief.
(c) The Irrigation System.
Indian agriculture, on which the country depends for its food supply, depends in its turn on the annual monsoon. If the monsoon breaks at the proper time and brings sufficient rain, the crops are abundant; but if it fails, or comes very late, the crops fail and agriculture is brought to a stand-still; and the result is a dearth of food, or famine, with all its terrible consequences.
As there is no reason to think that the climate of India has radically changed in historical times, famines must have been as frequent and severe in older times as they are today. If we have not many historical records of famines in the past, this is due to the fact that ancient histories, which were devoted mainly to the description of wars, the policy of Kings, and the intrigues of royal courts, considered the lives and sufferings of the common people beneath their notice.
In fact, famines are not today the terrible disasters they were in the old days. Before the introduction of railways and good roads, a famine-stricken district was helpless. In that district, there was little or no food, and as food could not be brought from a distance, the people simply died of starvation by the thousand. The introduction of railways about the middle of the 19th Century, and the construction of good metalled roads, have changed the character of famines. Nowadays in a famine-stricken district, there is no lack of food because corn is brought in by the railways from the districts where the monsoon has not failed. So there is no starvation from an absolute dearth of food.
The difficulty, however, remains that the poor people, who are thrown out of work by the failure of the monsoon, have no money to buy food, however abundant it is. This difficulty has been met by the elaborate system of Government famine relief. As soon as famine conditions appear in a district, the Government opens famine relief works, on which the out-of-work agriculturists are employed at a fair wage, which enables them to buy sufficient food to keep themselves alive and in good health. Hence in a modern famine, there is little starvation and loss of life.
Besides this, large areas of the country have been made safe from famine by the wonderful irrigation canals, especially in Punjab, which makes agriculture independent of the monsoon.
So, thanks to the railways, the Government famine relief system, and irrigation, famine in modern times have been robbed of much of its terrors.