Sunday 8 April 2018

The Great Orissa Famine 1866 - Na'Anka Durbhikhya #AToZChallenge

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The Great Orissa Famine occurred in 1866 when India was under the British rule.
In Odisha history, it is referred to as - "Na'Anka Durbhikhya".
In Odia, Na'Anka means- No Number/Figure & Durbhikhya means- Famine.
Many died in the famine and the exact number of those dead is not known.
One-third of the population of Orissa perished. It is said that more than ten lakhs died.
There was abject poverty. The first "all-India census" was conducted in 1872, six years after the famine.
The Great Orissa Famine 1866 was a dark chapter to be forgotten. As printing-press was not widespread, not many reports about it are available. London Planning Commission report and foreign newspapers have coverage about the famine.
As per the British Parliament, such a tragedy has never happened since the birth of Christ.

Shocking stories of mismanagement by the British Government have come to light. Many lives could have been saved if the population had timely access to food-grains...
Image result for john beames memoirs bengal civilian
In his book, 'Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian', John Beames, a civil servant in British India, mentions about the Orissa famine thus:

"Some years afterwards, in 1881, I found out the secret. A man who did not know that it was I who had conducted the Orissa rice contract, told me as a good joke how he, in partnership with some others, chief of whom was as scoundrel called K- (then an Assistant Secretary to the Government), had secured a contract from the Government for the supply of a large quantity of Burmah rice and how, before the contract was signed, they had been alarmed by the news that someone down in Orissa had offered to supply a very large quantity of rice at a cheaper rate, and that the famine officer in Calcutta, Toynbee, having served for many years in Orissa was trying to favour the Orissa merchants and induce Government to accept their offer. Then came the news that Toynbee had succeeded, principally owing to the dislike of Burmah rice by the Bengalis. K- , my informant said, took advantage of his position to suggest to Government that it would not be safe to rely upon the Orissa contractors sending the rice in their own vessels, as they would not be able to find vessels enough. He thus procured the issue of the order...and...he and his partners brought all their Burmah rice to Calcutta and disposed of it to the Government."
The Orissa Famine served as a wake-up call to the British Government, who managed the subsequent "famine in Behar and Northern Bengal" with care and "made all the needful arrangements". 

More than 150 years have passed. 'THE GREAT ORISSA FAMINE 1866' - 'NA'ANKA DURBHIKSHYA' book in English was released last year in a function in Bhubaneswar. It is based on the available reports of British Govt. and media.

Note- Present-day Odisha has been referred as 'Orissa' as that was the previous name of the state. While I would like to present all the treasures of Odisha and there are so many other famous personalities and products, I picked 'Famine' as my post for 'F'. Not much literature is available on the subject. We cannot wish it away. The Great Orissa Famine 1866 is a grim reality that has to be accepted...

Post for my second #atozchallenge. F for Famine
My Theme is- "Odisha- The Soul of Incredible India".
Odisha is a state in the eastern part of India. Have you visited Odisha and India? 
I will be sharing some glimpses from Odisha. Do keep reading and discovering!

1 comment:

  1. hmm, sad to read about this. Looking forward to my visit later this year


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