My Dear Brother,
It was after a long wait that I received your affectionate letter a few days ago. I am glad to know of your welfare. You have asked me to write to you in detail about the famine conditions that prevailed sometime ago in several parts of India. So according to your wishes, I am here giving you an account of famine and drought conditions that prevailed in the country, more special in Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and western U.P., in August and September and of the relief work that was done. It was the third continuous year of famine and so the hardships of the common man were unprecedented.
The famine that prevailed in the aforesaid States was the result of the failure of rains. As you know, agriculture in India is backward and old fashioned, the Indian farmer mainly depends on rains for irrigation. There are some cannels and tube wells, but they are not all sufficient. The result is that there are good crops only when there are rains at the right time and its sufficient quantity.
But strange are the vagaries of nature. Sometimes, the rains are too late and at other time they are too early. Sometimes, the rain fall is excessive giving rise to floods and destroying the crops of the poor farmers. At other times, there are no rains or only scanty rains. The result is that crops get scorched and drought conditions prevail. This is what happened in the states mentioned above. The rains failed and this resulted in crop failure on a large scale. The food situation becomes acute as a result of the failure of rains. Practically the whole of India become semi-starved. There was also acute scarcity of fodder and drinking water.
Famines and droughts are a great calamity for the common man. The tails of their suffering that appeared in the newspapers were extremely horrifying. Thousands failed to get even one square meal a day. Many lived on grass, on wild roots, and leaves of trees. Houses, utensils and other necessary articles had to be sold to purchase bread. Several starvation deaths were reported. Cattle died in their thousands. People had to trudge several miles to get drinking water.
Anti-social elements took full advantages of the situation. There was hording and profiteering on a mass scale. It was so very shocking. One cannot describe the suffering of the children, of the old and the invalid, who could get no milk and medicine and who thus died a horrible death. The anguish of the mothers whose children died of hunger before their eyes and of the youths whose aged parents met with a similar fate can better be imagined than described. The pictures of these emaciated and starving people that appeared in the newspapers told a horrible tale.
However, the government did its best to help these famine stricken people. A sub-committee for the purpose was formed under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and he himself visited practically every drought hit state. The youth of the country and other voluntary organization were involved actively in relief work. The youth responded enthusiastically and did much valuable services. They went from village to village, collected money, clothes, medicines, and food for distribution among the suffering people. They also did their best to check hoarding and profiteering.
Famine-relief work was given top priority and the administration was geared up to meet the situation. Food grain was rushed in large quantities from the neighboring states. Food and fodder were also rushed by the center of different parts of the country on an emergency basis. Food was distributed free to the needy. Countless kitchens worked round the clock. Many lives were thus saved and much suffering avoided.
An appeal was also made to the nation to help its famine-stricken brothers, and contribute liberally to the nation to help its famine relief found of the various states and the Prime Minister’s Relief found. People rose to the occasion and contributed generously both in cash and kind. A number of voluntary organizations did much valuable work and helped the officers in the distribution of food, clothes and medicines. Construction of roads, bridges, and other such public works was undertaken on a large scale to provide employment to the poor and the needy. Food grains as wages, as the government had comfortable food stocks. Hand pumps were sunk on a large scale.
Some permanent measures to avoid the recurrence of such calamities were also taken in hand. The digging of kuccha wells and canals and the construction of tube-wells was taken up on war footing. This provided work to many who were unemployed or under-employed. Thousands of wells were thus dug within no time.
Many states of the countries are frequently in the grip of famine. The government does its best, but the only permanent solution to this problem lies in scientific farming. The youth of the country can do much in this connection. Educated young men should go to the villages and try to educate and persuaded the farmers to take too scientific farming. India must produce more and that, too, rapidly or perish. I hope, my dear brother, when you return to India after learning the Japanese method of rice cultivation, which yields much more per acre, you would be able to contribute your bit to the prosperity and well-being of your motherland.
All remember you at home and are eager for your early return.