FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1717 (a) [to 1718 + see 1719, 1720]: Madras to Madurai|
|Documented causes: drought, then untimely rain|
|Documented effects: official relief efforts in Madras and Pondicherry|
|Francis Cyril Anthony (ed.) "Gazetteer of India: Union Territory of Pondicherry" (1982) [based on " Procès-verbaux des délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Compagnie des Indes" vol. 1, p207]|
|p539: Pondicherry again faced acute famine conditions in 1717 having failed to receive rains the previous year. In order to attract food grains to the town all duties and levies on the import of food grains from outside the territory were suspended for 36 days.|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1718" (1929)|
|p5 (consultation of 17 Jan 1718): "The Warehouskeepr. representing that the Washers make frequent complaints for want of water in their Tanks, & grain being very dear at present, and they being poor and not able to digg them,|
ORDER'D that the Paymaster take a Survey thereof and deliver in his report."
p7 (consultation of 20 Jan 1718): "The Paymaster according to the order of last Consultation survey'd the wells among the Washers, reports that the Sinking of them will amount to Pags. three hundred which We think is too much, and for fear of such a thing being brought as a preceedent it is thought most advisable considering the Scarcity of rice that a present be made them in grain to the amount of Pags. Two hundred & forty they being at great Charge in Congeeing the Hon'ble. Companys cloth."
p18 (consultation of 3 Feb 1718): "Sunca Rama &c. Joint Stock Merchants appear before the Board according to order of Consultation dated the 24th. ult. the number of bales propos'd was seventeen hund'd. & eight of which Twelve hundred to be deliver'd by the end of September next and the remainder by the first of January. It was also propos'd to them to make an abatement of five Pr. Cent on the prizes on the last Contract, the Merchants desir'd time to consider whether they should be able to comply with Our proposalls in bringing in so large a quantity in the time propos'd but as to the abatement they readily answer'd that tho' Cotten [was] at a reasonable rate which had been urg'd to them in order to procure an abatement, yet that grain was so dear, and the scarcity still increasing, that the price of labour must be advanc'd or the Manufacturers would not be able to support their familys, On the whole they were Order'd to attend next Consultation when the Affair of the Contract is to be further debated.
p33 (consultation of 20 Feb 1718): Provision being very scarce and dear, and the boatmen desiring something may be advanc'd them for their subsistance
ORDER'D that the Warehouskeeper advance them Three hundred pagodas for provision they obliging themselves to work it Out."
p128 (consultation of 17 Jul 1718): "Sunca Rama &c. New Joint Stock Merchants came in and propos'd to the Board to take about four hund'd. bales of the Broad cloth and Perpetuanoes come out this year, being the whole of what is imported proper for this market including all the ordinary Auroras, Reds and Popinjays at the price last Year being Thirty Pr. Cent advance and nine months Credit.
Before We debated the price they were press'd to take the yellows also which they refus'd alledging that they were quite out of demand in the Country, but at length the[y] consented to include about Ten bales of the Yellow, We then propos'd an advance of five Pr. Cent in the price but they objected that the scarcity of grain had for the present put a stop to the Country Trade and that at this time they have above One hundred bales of the last years cloth in their godowns in Town.
The Merchants being withdrawn We consider'd the matter fully and could not deny the truth of what they had alledg'd, and therefore agreed to accept Thirty Pr. Cent but to allow no time, payment being to be made in cloth as brought in.
The Merchants being call'd in were acquainted with the determination of the Board to which they agreed.
p130 (consultation of 21 Jul 1718): "The Springs failing in all the Tanks about the washing Town, by reason of the long drougth, so that Our Washermen cannot proceed on their work it was propos'd that the Tanks should be cleans'd of the mud and dugg a little deeper in the sand in hopes of finding water the charge being computed to be Pags. Three hundred.
ORDER'D that the Paymaster give orders for cleansing out the Tanks accordingly."
p134 (consultation of 28 Jul 1718): "Collastry and Conapa Chittys Farmers of Egmore &c. Villages appear'd before the Board and tender'd Pags. Six hundred and Fifty and Seventeen fanams for one years rent in lieu of Pags. Seventeen hundred eighty five for which the said Villages are let, alledging that by reason of the great drougth the Inhabitants were not able to pay more to the truth of which Conapa Chitty took his oath before the Board which being exactly conformable to the Contract in Our Cowle was admitted and the said Sum receiv'd for last Years rent."
p141 (consultation of 11 Aug 1718): "Conapa Chitty who had paid in the rent of Egmore &c. Villages on the 28th. ult. and had a large deduction allowd him on account of the great drougth according to the account of Loss sustain'd deliverd in by him upon oath appear'd before the Board and acknowledg'd that he had discoverd himself to have been impos'd on in the acc't. given in by him that the Manager of the Villages Poll Reddee had conceald the sum of One hundred sixty nine pagodas, Twenty eight fanams and Sixty Cash which he now Tenders to the Board as being part of the produce of the Villages for the last vear.
The mony was receiv'd and Poll Reddee calld in and the Charge was fully prov'd upon him that he had conceald the abovemention'd Sum and thereby impos'd upon Connapa Chitty the consequence of which was defrauding the Hon'ble. Company.
To prevent the like frauds for the future it was thought necessary to proceed with severity against the Criminall the Sentence pronounc'd on him was that he should stand two hours in the pillory on the next publick day, and then be whipp'd out of the English bounds, never to return again under penalty of loosing his ears and that his estate be confiscated to the Hon'ble. Company."
p171 (consultation of 30 Sep 1718): "ORDERED That Mr. Humphry Holcombe be sent down to Metchlapatam to Reside in the Factory there wth. the same Attendance that Mr. Noden formerly had; That Six pagodas Pr. mo. be allowed him for Diet mony, and an addition of 2 pags. Pr. mo. during the present Scarcity of provisions."
p183 (consultation of 20 Oct 1718): "John Emmerson Rentall Gen'n. & Scavinger produces an Acco't. remains of the Scavingers, and Quit rent duty for the last Year, and representing to the Board the impossibility of recovering any part of it by reason of the extream poverty of those Inhabitants from whom it is due
ORDERED that the Accomptant do write it off being Pagodas 189. 23. 50."
"The Worsp'll. Richard Horden Esq. Mayor represents to the Board that he has detected a piece of knavery committed by Poncala Rajah Gopall, and Chatta putta Tanna Moortee Farmrs. of ye measur'g. duty as follows.
That whereas it is stipulated in their Cowle that the Farmer shall Receive as his due from the Seller of Grain two fanams for every Garse, and one Measure of Grain for every Pagodas worth measured out, wch. is the whole consideration allowed them for the discharge of that Office, It now appears that tbe said Farmers have taken of the Seller a larger Quantity of Grain, than allowed by ye Cowle for every Pagodas worth of Grain Measured, amounting (as Appears by one parcel produced before the Presidt. & Mayor) to fifty Pr. Cent above the Allowance, and besides that they had taken of the Buyers two three and four to Six doodaes and sometimes a fanam as they could get for every pagodas worth delivered out, and this cheifly of the poor and needy people, both wch. are direct Violations of the Cowle. To this representation of the Mayor, The President added That He also wth. ye Mayor had Examin'd into the Fact, which was fully proved before them by Sev'l. Witnesses, and at length confessed by both ye Farmrs. who offered no other Excuse but this that the Surplus of Grain rec'd. of the Sellers, and the Cash rec'd. of ye Buyers was all for Charity, Tho it was fully proved that they were Extorted from ye P'rsons concerned.
AGREED that the aforementioned Cowle be taken from ye said Poncala Rajah Gopall, & Chatta puttee Tanna Moortee Farmrs. of the Measuring Duty, and giv'n to Poncala Kistna who offers the same rent they paid for it, and a Just performance of all the particular articles & injunctions therein mention'd."
"The Sea Customer represents that during the present Scarcity and dearness of Grain, He had not Rated it at the full price, as He has sev'll. times acquainted the Presid't. & this Board, who approved this proceeding, being unwilling on one hand to take off the whole duty for the present, least it should be drawn into Precedent hereafter, and on the other hand they were unwilling to discourage the Importers by being too Severe in ye Customs, so that Grain wch. has been sold from Seventy to Eighty Pagodas Pr. Garse has been generally Rated at about fifty or fifty five. He adds, that tho' this has been Approved, Yet there hav'g. been no Entry of it in form, He desires that the Approbation of the Board may be entred in our Consultation for his Justification.
AGREED that the Sea Custom'rs. Conduct above mentioned be Approved, and that he continue the same dur'g. the present Scarcity of Grain."
p200 (consultation of 17 Nov 1718): "Suncah Ramah &c. Renters of Trivadore &c. new Villages bring in their Accounts of the produce thereof from the 18th. of Octo'r. 1717 to the 17th. Octo'r. 1718. The Nett produce amounts to Pagodas five hundred & forty four, seventeen fanams & fourteen Cash, whereas the Rent Contracted for in ye. Cowle is twelve Hundred Pagodas Pr. annum; But the reason of so great a deficiency is evident from ye great droughts of this last year, wch. rendered the Land incapable of Tillage, and destroyed ye greatest part of the Grain that was sowed.
AGREED that the sum of Pagodas five hundred and forty four, seventeen fanams & fourteen Cash be accepted for that reason in full of the rent of those Villages for the last year, and that a Receipt be giv'n accordingly to ye Renters."
p203 (consultation of 20 Nov 1718): "Our whole Cash consisting now of fanams besides one thousand Pagodas taken in by the President the whole Amo't. is about Six thousand Pagodas, and we Suppose is all or much the greatest part of w't. will be bro't. in on our promise to Exchange Pagodas for fans. The whole Quantity is not too much for the common Exchange in a time of plenty, but the present Scarcity and dearness of Grain hinders the poor from keeping any little Stock by them wch. usually consisted of fanams, and as we cannot Expect there will be a Currency for the whole Quantity in Several months to come, it Seems reasonable to melt down such a part of the fanams, as is likely to lie by; the charge of Recoinage being but two Pr. Cent, wch. will be gained in three months time, as we are obliged to take up mony at Interest.
ORDERED that the Amo't. of Pagodas four thousand in fanams be melted down into Bars and sold. "
|Theodore Morison, "The economic transition in India" (1911)|
|pp113-4: "1717-18. Fort St. George.- 'Trade at a full stand as to woollen goods etc. for the inland countrey. The famine has almost dispeopled the adjacent countrey.' ("Coast and Bay Abstracts," vol. ii. pp. 201-202.)"|
|"Procès-verbaux des délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Compagnie des Indes" (Vol. 1, 1911)|
|pp198-9: (meeting of 26 Oct 1718) [discussing the extremely low offers made for "fermes" (leases of monopolies within the lands held by the Compagnie)] "... le conseil auroit reconnu que la misère provenoit d'abord des vexations du précédent Gouvernement, qui avoit fort diminué le nombre des habitants, de la cessation du commoerce, le dernier vaisseau de Saint-Malo n'ayant pas laissé une pataque dans la ville, et enfin de l'horrible cherté qui dure depuis un an, les pluyes ayant manqué l'hiver dernier, ensorte que les anciens fermiers sont absoluement ruinez ..."|
p207: (meeting of 22 Dec 1718) "Les pluyes ayant absoluement manqué l'année dernière, la cherté du ris a toujours continué depuis ce temps là et a ruiné nos pauvres habitants, l'espérance que nous aurions un hiver plus favorable nous avoit soutenu jusques à présent, mais les pluies ayant aussy manqué cette année, rien ne peut exprimer l'horrible misère qui règne icy et laquelle enfin est parvenu à son comble ne venant point de grain de dehors et ny ayant plus dans la ville, les blanchisseurs, batteurs de toille et autres ouvriers qui travaillent à préparer la cargaison du 'Comte de Toulouze' ne trouvant point de grain à acheter, M. Delavigne s'est mis en mouvement et nous à sollicité de remédier à ce malheur: nous avons fait toutes les diligences imaginables auprès de tous les marchands pour les engager à faire venir des grains du dehors pour en fournir le peuple et l'empêcher de sucomber entièrement. le peu de ris et autres grains que nos soins ont pu procurer ne suffit pas au quart de nos habitants, en sorte que c'est une chose affreuse au marché que le concours du peuple qui se presse pour acheter, quand il y a quelques grains et que de pauvres malheureux passent la journée entière sans manger et sans trouver à acheter de quoy soutenir leur vie, dans cette affreuse scituation, qui est des plus déplorables, les marchands nous ont dit qu'il y avoit encore un moïen à tenter pour engager les laboureurs d'apporter plus de grains dans la ville et sauver cette colonie, ce moyen étoit d'exempter tous les grains des droits d'entrée jusques à la récolte prochaine.
La matière mise en délibération et s'agissant du salût de tout le peuple, il a été résolu que pendant trente-six jours à commencer d'aujourd'huy toutes les sortes de grains servant à la nourriture des hommes ne payeront aucuns droits d'entrées à condition néanmoins que ceux qui les apporteront en feront toujours la déclaration au chaudry pour y estre enregistrées suivant la coutume. ..."
|Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères (vol. 7, 1819)|
|p252: [Report from Père de Bourzes, missionary in Madurai, 25 Nov 1718] "... Il y a un an entier que la famine fait ici de grands ravages. ..."|
|1717 (b) [to 1719]: Gujarat|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: voluntary slavery; epidemic|
|1717: Lieut. Col. A.T. Etheridge, "Report on Past Famines in the Bombay Presidency" (1868) [Reports collected by local officials in all districts]|
|pp63-4 [Hoozoor, by the Hoozoor Deputy Collector, from the "Miratey Ahmedee"]: "Hijree 1130, Sumvut 1774-75, A.D. 1717-18. This famine is called Punchotra. [That name may be a misunderstanding: "Punchotra" normally indicated taxes payable to the Government.] Mut and Bajree were sold 3 or 4 seers for a Rupee. Owing, however, to the Soobedar's good management, the people did not suffer very much. Grain was sold to the poor and starving people at the door of Rughoonath Dass Dewan, who contributed much in charity. A child was procurable for a Rupee or two. Rain fell this year, but not seasonably. Epidemic broke out, and destroyed many."|
|Ali Muhammad Khan (trans. M.F. Lokhandwala), "Mirat-i-Ahmadi: A Persian History of Gujarat" (1965)|
|p383 (Chap. 168): [events of 1130 AH (1718 CE)] "It was in this year that a severe famine took place. It is known in Gujerat as Janbutra. Bajra and math were sold at four sers a rupee. This too was obtained with difficulty and hardship. But no one was bold enough to oppress the weak on account of strict administrative control of the Naib of the Subah. It was decided that food-stuff that was brought from outside was to be sold in the house of Rai Raghunath Das, Diwan of Haider Quli Khan. It was obtainable in proportion to luck and fate. It rained untimely which was not useful for cultivation purposes. Plains and meadows became verdant. Most of the poor and the destitute cooked leaves of self-growing vegetables out of distress and thus extinguished fire of starvation. But this food culminated in disease and death. People sold their children for one or two rupees. Signs of an epidemic appeared among the people. Many persons died. In ancient Gujarat, rupee with a hole and of less weight technically known as Chalani and Baqarkhani respectively was current in payment of price of food-grains, ghee, eatable and drinkable commodities. New rupees were coined in this year of famine which are current till now in the same manner."|
|Lieut. Col. A.T. Etheridge, "Report on Past Famines in the Bombay Presidency" (1868) [Reports collected by local officials in all districts]|
|p40 [Ahmedabad, by Acting Collector Borradaile, from "records of the former Padshahee Dewan"]: "The next famine is stated ... to have occurred in the year Hijree 1130, A.D. 1718, known as the 'Chowtro.' The price of Bajree and Mutt was 4 annas per seer. Numbers of people died of hunger and sickness, and children were sold for one or two Rupees each. No information is given as to the extent of country affected: it is said that grain was imported from other countries, but it is not clear whether this was a measure of relief adopted by the Government of the time, or a speculation of private individuals."|
|"A History of Gujarat: Vol. II. The Mughal Period from 1573 to 1758" (1957)|
|p394: The year 1718 (Samvat 1774) was long remembered by the people of the capital on account of the severe famine which afflicted the land. [Footnote: popularly known as Chumoterio (i.e. the affliction of the Samvat year 1774)] The price of bajri rose to four sers per rupee and stocks were not available. Under the orders of Haidar Quli Khan, all grain brought into the capital was to be taken to the residence of Raghunathdas, the diwan, and sold there under control. The scanty rainfall had produced only green weeds, which the hungry people cooked and devoured, so that disease and cholera broke out, and carried off large numbers. The Persian historian says that children were sold by their parents for one or two rupees during this dire calamity.|
|1717ish scarcity: Aurangabad area|
|Documented causes: unspecified|
|Documented effects: official relief and reservoir building|
|H.M. Elliot (comp.) "The history of India, as told by its own historians. The Muhammadan period." (vol 7, 1877)|
|p520 (from Khafi Khan "Muntakhabu-l Lubab"): [looking back at the lives of the Sayyid brothers, both dead by 1722; no date is given for the actual events reported, but this was presumably after Husain had become viceroy of Deccan in 1715] "In liberality and kindness to learned men and to the needy, and in the protection of men of merit, Husain ’Ali Khan excelled his elder brother, and was the Hatim suited to his day [possibly a reference to the resourceful and generous Arab folk-tale hero Hatim Tayy]. Numbers owed their comfort to the cooked food and raw grain which he gave away. At the time of the scarcity at Aurangabad, he appropriated a large sum of money and a great quantity of grain to supply the wants of the poor and of widows. The reservoir at Aurangabad was begun by him, and although A’azzu-d daula ’Iwaz Khan enlarged and made higher the buildings and the mosque [now known as Shah Ganj], still he was the originator of that extensive reservoir, which, in summer when water is scarce, relieves the sufferings of the inhabitants. In their native country of Barha they built sarais, bridges, and other buildings for the public benefit."|