NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC Civil Services Exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about The Great Bengal Famine of 1770. It has been described as one of the worst disasters of pre-Independent India.
Overview of the Great Bengal Famine of 1770
A disastrous famine affected the lower Gangetic Plains of India including the regions of Bengal and Bihar between 1769 and 1773 where 1/3rd of the population perished. An estimated 10 million people died of starvation and famine-triggered epidemics that also affected the regions of Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. The territory was then ruled by the British East India Company.
The famine is one of the many famines and famine-triggered epidemics that devastated the Indian subcontinent during the 18th and 19th century. It is usually attributed to a combination of weather and the policies of the East India Company. The start of the famine has been attributed to a failed monsoon in 1769 that caused widespread drought and two consecutive failed rice crops. The devastation from war, combined with exploitative tax revenue policies of the East India Company after 1765 crippled the economic resources of the rural population. However, modern scholarship has suggested that the effect of taxation was marginal.
Results of the Famine
The famine would have far-reaching consequences that would not only change the Indian subcontinent but even the world forever:
- The famine situation soothed by 1770 with good rainfall but not before claiming 1/3rd of the local population.
- Large swathes of land were depopulated as a result of the famine.
- Many agricultural lands became jungles for decades as a result of this famine.
- This also increased the menace of bands of thugee or dacoits in Bengal.
- Globally, the profit of the East India Company increased from fifteen million rupees in 1765 to thirty million in 1777.
- Despite the soar in profits, the company continued to suffer financially and influenced Parliament to pass the Tea Act in 1773.
- The Act allowed direct shipment of tea to the American colonies, without the payment of taxes. This infuriated the local merchants to the extent that they began protesting against this measure. One such protest was the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
- The aftermath of the protest would eventually lead to a series of events that would culminate into the 1776 American Revolution.
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