What it is and its causes
A general scarcity of food-grains of extreme nature in a country is called a famine. A famine may be due to various causes. Crops cannot grow for want of rain. Excessive rain, on the other hand, destroys crops. So famine is usually caused by want of excess of rain. It is also caused when food-crops are sent to other countries. It is sometimes caused by the ravages of locusts and other insects.
The effects of a famine
When a famine breaks out in a country, the condition of the people becomes miserable. People go without food for a number of days. Sometimes they live only on leaves and roots of trees. They sell their cattle and all household articles for money to buy food with. Many people sell their children for food. For want of food people are reduced to skeletons. Theft and robbery become common. Famine presents a horrible scene in a country. Many people die for want of food. Epidemic diseases break out, because people eat whatever they get.
In India, famines break out very often. Crops are destroyed by floods. Sometimes crops fail for want of rain. So there is shortage of food. People are generally poor. Their condition becomes pitiable. Many great famines broke out in India. Of these, the Bengal famines of 1770 and 1943, the Orissa famine of 1869, the Deccan famine of 1879 and the Gujarat famine of 1900, were terrible. It is impossible to describe fully the sufferings of the famine-stricken people.
How to prevent famines
The Government of a country should take steps to prevent the outbreak of famines. Farmers should be trained to cultivate their lands on a scientific basis. Improved machinery and manures should be used by farmers. Some rivers cause flood. These should be controlled. Dams should be made to store up their excess water. Land should be irrigated properly. A large number of canals should be dug so (hat fields may be watered easily. In this way, food crops will grow in plenty even if there is no rain. There should be good roads and net-work of railways. They should connect all the parts of a country. Thus if crops fail in one part of the country and a famine breaks out, other parts may supply it with sufficient food-grains.
How to help the sufferers
When a famine breaks out, it is the duty of the Government and the people to help the sufferers. The Government should open relief funds. People should raise funds and help the famine-stricken people. The Government should also start relief works to give employment to the sufferers. Loan should be given to them. Revenue should be remitted. Rice and other food-grains should be sent from all parts of the country to the famine-stricken area. It should be given free or at a low price to the people. In our country, the Ramakrishna Mission, Bharat Sevasram Sangha and other charitable institutions help the sufferers with money, food and cloth, whenever there is a famine.
Every year we read in newspapers’ reports of famines in some part of the country or other. It is beyond the power of men to prevent famines altogether. They can however, lessen the sufferings caused by a famine if steps are taken in time.