Report on Famine, 1972-73
On a Survey of Famine Conditions in Sakri Taluka of Maharashtra
THE staff of the Arts and Commerce College at Sakri, Dhulia district, recently conducted a sample survey of Sakri taluka on the impact of the 1972-73 famine, and published their findings in a report in Marathi. Despite its brevity and shortcomings, it is, on the whole, a vivid and revealing report despite the exoneration of the Congress Government from its minimum responsibilities for this 'natural calamity' and the fulsome praise showered on the forced, halting and inadequate steps to meet the ravages of the famine.
The title of the report can be faithfully rendered as "The Nature, Range and Intensity of the Famine in Sakri Taluka (1972-73)". But do the learned professors know that the very use of the term 'famine5 is abhorred by the Government of Maharashtra whose Chief Minister declared that all state governments have agreed to interpret the term as 'scarcity' in accordance with a Central Government directive? The morale of the people would sink at the mere mention of the word 'famine'. Its use should, therefore, be avoided.
Scarcity means partial famine. Declaration of scarcity enjoins upon the government to suspend the collection of land revenue of that year, while the suspension of the instalments of loans advanced by government or co-operative agencies is optional. On the other hand, once a famine is declared, it is incumbent on the government, in conformity with British precedent, to remit the instalments of land revenue and loans. As the famine broke out last year I urged the former Collector of Dhulia district to grant similar concessions. He put his* finger on the provision in the Land Revenue Code, a creature of the British, which stipulates that a famine can be declared only if scarcity continues for a consecutive period of three years. A de facto famine is but de jure if it lasts for one year or even two years. It can attain the unattainable appellation of 'famine3 only if the juggernaut grinds on for three long years at a stretch.
The report has not touched upon another fundamental aspect of the problem. Is the State Government bent upon eradicating, by legal