HC Deb 20 January 1944 vol 396 cc347-9
30. Mr. Graham White

asked the Secretary of State for India if he will make a statement on present conditions in the famine areas in India and on the long-term measures by which it is hoped to prevent a recurrence of food shortage in Bengal or elsewhere.

The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)

As the result of relief measures and an excellent winter rice crop there is now no general shortage of food in Bengal. The situation remains anxious as the procurement and distribution of supplies has been rendered difficult by the shock to public confidence. In the Deccan scarcity conditions have practically disappeared, though in Cochin and Travancore the position is not yet satisfactory. The long-term measures which are being taken include the Grow-More-Food Campaign, the vigorous enforcement of the Foodgrains Control Order, improvement of the procurement machinery, price control, the extension of urban rationing, and the continued prohibition of exports.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Is there such a shortage of financial provision for famine relief that subscriptions from this country are necessary?

Mr. Amery

They will not help to bring more food into India but may very well help in after care, the provision of clothing and looking after widows and orphans, and I certainly hope subscriptions from this country will still be forthcoming.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrenee

The right hon. Gentleman referred to urban areas. Has it been found possible to do anything with regard to rural rationing?

Mr. Amery

Not in any strict sense, but there has been an allocation by villages wherever possible.

35. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India if he will make a statement respecting the Indian famine and in particular on the adequacy of relief; if he is satisfied that the season's harvest can be completely gathered; what steps are being taken to avoid future calamities regarding food production and supply; and what is the present position regarding the spread of disease arising from famine conditions, the number of cases treated and the number of deaths.

Mr. Amery

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White). Relief measures in regard to food distribution have now achieved their purpose. Medical relief and the free distribution of clothing blankets and cloth to destitute persons are being vigorously carried out and measures for the long term rehabilitation of destitute people are under consideration by the Government of Bengal. I have no reason to believe that through shortage of labour or any other cause the season's harvest will not be completely gathered. Cholera and malaria are decreasing in Bengal, but, still present a most serious problem. There are still no reliable figures, but the Government of India, on the basis of present information, consider that the abnormal mortality due to the famine and to disease in the last five months of 1943 has not exceeded 1,000,000. I have no complete figures for the number of cases treated, but by 28th December the Military Emergency Organisation alone had treated 128,000 cases and nearly 1,500,000 cholera inoculations had been given.

Mr. Sorensen

According to the right hon. Gentleman's statement famine has been the normal background of India for a long time, and in view of that does he not feel that the suggestions and proposals advanced now are inadequate to prevent the recurrence of such calamities?

Mr. Amery

I do not agree that famine has been in recent times a normal background. We have in normal times successfully coped with it. The abnormal difficulties arising out of the war situation have led to this particular situation in Bengal and every possible measure has been taken to cope with it.

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