FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1720 (a) [from 1717 & 1719]: Madras to Madurai|
|Documented causes: drought, then untimely rain|
|Documented effects: official relief efforts in Madras|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1720" (1930)|
|p48 (consultation of 21 Mar 1720): Maria Pois's Cowle for the Comp's. old Garden expiring the 25th. of this month,|
AGREED that it be Renew'd to her for 5 years more upon the same terms as before, in regard to her poor circumstances, and that the Garden is not worth much more.
The Cowle for the Tobacco and beetle farm expiring the 4th. of the next month, Poncala Kistna the old Renter was sent for, and ask'd if he would advance the price of it upon the next Cowle, as it was a Revenue Capable of Improvem't. He reply'd be had been a sufferer by it these three years past on account of the Famine, and therefore hop'd rather for an abatement to make him amends for the loss he has already sustain'd; Whereupon he was dismiss'd, and it was at length
AGREED that, as our H. Masters have always approv'd our disposal of their farms publickly, the Sec'ry. should affix a note at the Sea Gate for all persons who are desirous of renting the Beetle & Tobacco Farm to apply themselves to the Govern'r. in order to have their Proposals laid before the Board by him on Monday next.
There having been an order of Cons'n. made the 26th. of Nov'r, last to exempt all houses und'r. 50 pags. value from being Registerd (by virtue of a former order) till Plenty should return, It is AGREED to take off that Exemption, the Famine being now gone off.
p51 (consultation of 28 Mar 1720): The Sec'ry. having affix'd a note at the Sea Gate pursuant to order of last Consultation to give notice that the Beetle & Tobacco Farm would expire the 4th. of next mo. & that all persons who were desirous of Renting ye same should apply themselves to the Gov'r. in order to have their proposals consider'd in Council this day, The President acquaints the Board that nobody has been with him upon that occasion, but the old Renter who being call'd in to treat about it, he absolutely refus'd to make any advance upon the former rent of 7000 Pags. Pr. annum, urging at the same time his great sufferings for these three years past by the famine, which considerably decreased as well as impoverished the Inhabitants, and consequently hinder'd the usuall vent of beetle & Tobacco; he added that he expected rather an abatement as Customary in case of such misfortunes, than an advance upon the rent, but that however since we were determin'd not to lower it, he desir'd one small inconvenience which he often met wth. might be remedy'd; That is whereas he usually sold 400 leaves in each bundle for a fanam both of the fine Course sort, the buy'rs, would not take them promiscuously, but pick'd the better sort out, insomuch that what were rejected would not yeild any thing by reason of their being spoil'd wth. handling he desir'd that the finer sort of leaves might be sold at the rate of 300 Pr. one fanam, & the ordinary sort at 500 and the St. Thomas leaves as usuall, there being no proffit upon them all wch. being consider'd by the board
It was AGREED to comply wth. his request in that there being no very material difference between the rates in the former Cowle and those he now proposes, the richer sort of people being only affected by it, which is made amends for by the proportionable advantage allow'd the Poor.
ORDER'D therefore that the Sec'ry. prepare a Cowle for Poncala Kistna against next Consultation for the beetle & Tobacco farm for five years more at the yearly rent of Seven thousand Pagodas, to be drawn in the same form with the last, inserting that additionall Clause aforemention'd.
p95 (consultation of 7 Jun 1720): No persons appearing to offer any thing considerable for the Villages of Egmore &c. on acco't. of the drought & it being of ill consequence to lower ye Revenues
AGREED that Mr. Charles Hazelwood Factor in the Hon'ble. Comp's. service take Charge of them till further orders.
p171 (consultation of 24 Oct 1720): The Sea Customer represent'g. that the Mussoolas were much out of repair and that the Boatmen desir'd 100 pa. towards repairing them AGREED That the Warehouse-keeper advance them One hundred Pagodas in consideration of the necessity there is of hav'g. the boats in order before the month of January and of the prospect we have of a plentifull year whereby they may be enabled to discharge their debt to the Company wch. the severity of ye famine has hitherto prevented them from.
|J. Bertrand, "La Mission du Maduré" (vol. 4, 1854)|
|LETTRE DU P. CHARLES-MICHEL BERTHOLDI, MISSIONAIRE DU MADURÉ, AU R.P. MICHEL-ANGE TAMBURINI, GÉNÉRAL DE LA COMPAGNIE DE JÉSUS.|
C'est pour moi un devoir et un bonheur de vous faire connaître les grâces spéciales qu'il a plu à la divine bonté de nous accorder pendant cette année, afin que vous nous aidiez à l'en remercier diguement.
La première faveur a été la cessation de la famine qui depuis plusieurs années désolait toutes ces contrées, et renouvélait sous nos yeux tous les scènes d'horreur dont on trouve de si affreuses descriptions dans les historiens d'Europe. Je dois signaler cependant cette différence, qu'au lieu de se porter à ces excès de confusion, de violence et de rage, que la faim produit si souvemnt chez les autres nations, nos pauvres indiens, plus patients ou plus timides, tombaient d'inanition, et attendaient tranquillement la mort. Grâce à Dieu, le fléau a cessé: des pluies abondantes ont fait renaître l'espérance et, bientôt après, la moisson a réjoui ceux qui avaient survécu à la famine.
|K.R. Subramanian, "Maratha Rajas Of Tanjore" (1928)|
|p38: [during the reign of Sarabhoji I in Tangjore, 1712-28] "Advaita Kirtana, a Tamil manuscript in the Tanjore library speaks of a breach in the Kaveri dam and the refusal of the Madura Nayak to allow its repair. Drought and famine followed, and then the necessary repairs were permitted and carried out. There is a Sanskrit manuscript in the same place named Sarabhoji Charitra which praises the king for fighting with those that came to cut off the Kaveri dam. The reference here has to be traced to an incident in the succession war. It is worthy of note that the cutting of the Kaveri dam was considered as great a calamity as the construction of it by Karikala had been held a monumental benefit by early Tamil poets." [The Ramnad "Succession War" began in 1720]|
|1721-3: the aftermath in Madras|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1721" (1930)|
|p13 (consultation of 26 Jan 1721): Colloway & Vinkety Chitty late farmers of Egmore &c. Villages being indebted Pags. 1785 for the rent of that Farm and having been severall times call'd to pay the said Sum, they have declin'd doing [it &] they alledge that the Drought for the last three years has been the occasion of their not making near the [sum] they are oblig'd to pay by their Cowle. The said Farmers being again call'd in and the mony demanded of them [they] deliver in an acco't. of what the said Villages did [really] produce urging again that the rag'g. of the Famine by the want of rain was the reason they could make no more and that they hop'd we would abide by that Acco't. as they did in the case of Conapa Chitty in ye year 1718.|
The said affair being [debated] It is Agreed that If they take their Oath to ye [acco't] yt. they have deliver'd in wch. is agreable to the [Contract made w'th. them] in their Cowle and is what the Hon'ble. Comp. seem'd [to have done] in the case of Conapa Chitty that we do [excuse them] the remainder w'ch. they were acquainted w'th. [& order'd to] Attend next Consultat'n. for that purpose.
p42 (consultation of 13 Mar 1721): Colloway & Venketty Chitte &c. Farmers of Egmore were call'd in and dem'ded. of them whither they would pay their debt to the Company or take their Oath to the acco't. they deliver'd in upon w'ch. they requested that the Inhabitants of those villages who had the care of the farm might be put to their oaths because they were the persons who could best give an acco't. of what the said farm did really produce, whereupon they were plainly told that those inferiour people were not the persons from whom the Company expected their mony but from those who perticularly rented the farm and that they must either take their Oath or pay the full sum demanded w'ch. be'g. exac[t]ly agreable to the Hon'ble. Comp's. orders They were acquainted there[wth.] And having deliberated upon the matter they agreed rather to [pay] the full Sum than to take their Oaths upon any occasion whatsoever it being (as they alledge) look'd upon as a very odious thing among their Cast & would consequently be attended wth. ill consequences to them & their familys. It is therefore order'd that they do pay the sum of Pags. 1780 for wch. they stand indebted in their books and that the Secretary calls upon them accordingly for the same.
p66 (consultation of 4 May 1721): Stephen Newcome delivers in a remonstrance of the State of the Villages of Egmore &c. & their produce setting forth that many of the Inhabit'ts, and other people who are not in the Companys service do claim a priviledge of so much paddy out of every Crop wch. he can't find upon enquiry to have been settled in Consultation but have for some time past been granted to the Renters wch. priv Hedges he repres'ts. to have considerably lessen'd the Income of said Farm and therefore desires the orders of the board concerning them.
A Debate ari'g. concern'g, the afores'd. priviledges, It is Ordered that Messrs. Emmerson and Draper make a Scrutiny therein & report the same to the board.
p69 [transcript of Newcombe's report, mostly details of land use]: ... All the Tanks were out of repair this year having not been minded in the time of the drought especially the great Tank at Persiawalk which for want of repairs was not above half full which renders half that Ground useless to the Planters and is computed to be a yearly loss of Pagodas two hundred to the Hon'ble. Company, it has lain a long time in this Condition & will be now about Pags. 500. — charges to repair it, afterwards the Inhabitants will keep it up without any further Charge to the Hon'ble. Company.
... hope vour Hon'r. &c. will think the produce very well when you consider the former part of this last year was fruitless for want of Rain, the Tanks in a bad condition, the Inhabitants had neither Servants, money nor Cattle & had not your Hon'r. &c. assisted them [with] money to hire people & buy cattle most of the Land had layd untill'd this year & notwithstanding they are much increas'd with Labourers and Cattle, Still they are not sufficient to plant all the Ground [as] it ought to be and should your Hon'r. &c. call in that money I fear it will be some hindrance to next years Crops which at present I hope will be very advantagious, we are now began cutting & hope monthly to gain a considerable Quantity of Grain.
p77 (consultation of 18 May 1721): Collastre & Venketty Chitty &c. Farmers of Egmore Villages appear before the board and pay in the whole ballance of that acco't. being Pags. 1785 : — : — . Upon w'ch. they desire the board will represent the hardship of their Case to the Hon'ble. Company by first ship who rather than undergo the Scandal (as it is look'd upon amongst them) of taking an Oath they submit to pay the whole Sum when everybody knows that by reason of the Famine and want of rain they did not receive half: We therefore Agree to lay this affair before our Hon'ble. Masters by first opportunity in hopes that wh[en] they know the truth they will consider the hardships the poor people have undergone and order them a reasonable allowance for the damages they have sustain'd.
p88 (consultation of 15 Jun 1721): [report of inquiries arising from Mr Newcome's report of 4 May, inc:] As to the great Tank which Mr. Newcome mentions will cost about Pags. five hundred in repairing we do not find that ever the Hon'ble. Company were at any charge in such repairs that being always bore by the Inhabitants. Its true the Famine has reduc'd them very low so that if your Hon'r. &c. think fit to build them a few sluices to the Tank we think they ought to throw the Banks up at their own charge."
p171 (Diary, 14 Nov 1721): All last night and this day the Wind and rain continued with more violence than yesterday & increas'd towards noon to a great Storm, the rapidity of the waters out of the Country was so great that it broke two of our bridges, that next to the Fort and the other on the road towards Triplicane, [At] the former of these there was at least 2 foot fall which must be a prodigious strain to so small a bridge and as to the other it was hardly dry so consequently the more liable to this disaster, the whole Island was overflow'd & nothing all round us to be seen but Water, Tops of hedges and trees, the rains & floods have carried away most of the Macquaw & Poor People's houses in the Suburbs of Madrass. The weather at one a clock in the Afternoon was so thick & hazey that we could not see a stones cast round us and notwithstanding we are extreemly alarm'd at frequent firings from the Ships [in] the road all this afternoon, yet we cannot do any thing for the security either of our Hon'ble. Masters Goods, Ships or Treasure, the Surf flying quite up to the Gates & impossible for almost any thing to live upon the Sea.
(Diary, 15-17 Nov):
The Hon'ble. President in the morning perceiving the Ships were missing dispatch'd 100 Peons to the Southward along the Sea side to see if any Wrecks came ashore but the rivers being so very deep and rappid & the Country undr. water that the Peons could not pass so that had not any intelligence till the 17th.
[Subsequent Diary entries record the finding of wrecked ships some way up the coast, and salvage efforts with help from the Muslim governors of the area]
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1722" (1930)|
|p4 (consultation of 3 Jan 1722): [from report by Mr Newcome on the villages of Egmore etc.] The Inhabitants have been very diligent this year & have sow'd a great deal more Land than they did last year which promised an extraordinary produce but the late Storm spoild them a great deal of Paddy, particularly Tonderwood Village the sea having flow'd in at Cattawaack Village so run through Trivitore Sattangoord Tanderwood & so to this place which has kill'd the paddy and made the Ground Salt wherever it came and has occasion'd this second time of sowing to come up very thin, & will afford but a small produce w'ch: damages we compute to be about two or three hundred Pagodas notwithstanding said loss we hope this years produce will come out better than the last & I assure your Hon'r. &c: my care shall not be wanting therein.|
Mr. Harris informs me he had a little ground in each of those Villages allow'd him as a perquisite by w'ch: he the better could judge what the rest of the Paddy Feilds would produce and in some measure could prevent the Inhabitants cheating of him for w'ch. reason I humbly request your Hon'r. &c. will please to grant me the same & it will very much oblige, ...
[Council agreed to make another attempt at letting out the villages]
p48 (consultation of 20 Mar 1722): The President reports that the Washers had complain'd of the heavy Cloth and hard labour before the dispatch of the last Ships and that their pay was much Short of what was given the Fort St. David Washers and that severall of their Servants had left them and apply'd themselves to husbandry as easier Labour and better gains upon which he examin'd into their pay at both places and finds that their pay at Madrass is 5 Pags. for a hundred pieces of Long cloth and 2 Pags. 8 fanams for a hundred pieces of Sallempores and at Fort St. David 6 Pags. nine fanams for a hundred pieces of Long cloth and 2 Pags. 18 fanams for a hundred pieces of Sallempores, upon which ye President in consideration that it is our Hon'ble. Master's orders and Interest that their Cloth is made thick and good notwithstanding the trouble in curing it promis'd them that their Wages should be advanc'd 20 fanams each hundred pieces of Long cloth and 10 fanams each hundred pieces of Sallempores which will then be Short of the Fort St. David prizes 25 fans. on each hundred pieces of Long cloth but as much as is given for Sallempores upon which promise they were very diligent and enabled us to give the Ships their full Lading.
The President likewise proposes to the Board to consider the Circumstances of these People that they have nothing but their days labour to depend upon for of the 5 P. 20 fa. now to be paid for a hundred pieces of Long Cloth, there is 3 P. 0 fa. 60 ca. paid out of that to different Sets of People dependant on ym. and for materialls as the Beaters, Back Cooleys, Head Men and Conicoplys firewood, Salting Stuff, Chinam, Bratty, Indigo and Congee, besides the accidents of torn Cloth for which they are accountable, so that the Labourer hath for washing one hundred pieces 2 P. 19 fa. 20 ca. which is short of one fanam each piece and very hard work for the Colour is not wrought by the Sun as in Europe but by frequent boiling and dint of Labour, wherefore Its AGREED that they be allow'd 20 fanams Pr. hundred pieces of Long cloth and 10 fanams Pr. hundred pieces of Sallempores more than their former pay.
p56 (consultation of 4 Apr 1722): The President reports that in discourse with the Hon'ble. Company's Merchants late Tenants of Egmore Persiawalk &c. Villages, they offer'd to make appear by their Books that they have lost every year by that Cowle two, three or four hundred Pagodas and will by no means be prevail'd upon to take them urging further that the Hon'ble. Company propos'd to cure a larger Quantity of Cloth here than usuall and that if they should take those Villages they must neglect the Company's business for which reasons they desir'd to be excus'd the President further observes one impediment is the Tank at Persiawalk being so much out of repair that it will cost one thousand Pagodas to make it fit for a Tenant's use tho': it hath been reported before to be done for 500 Pagodas as enter'd after Consultation of the 15th. June 1721 and therein propos'd that the Inhabitants do the laborious part gratis, which cannot be expected from a needy People that have not more than the rice they daily work for, the President further reports that He cannot find any one will bid more than 1200 Pagodas for a term of years and repair the Tank for his time and proposeth that this be referr'd home to the Hon'ble. Masters for their determination in this matter and in the interim,
ORDER'D that Messrs. Turner and Oadham do examine when the last Cowle expir'd, how the Villages have been taken care of, by whom and what money has been paid in, what paid out for Charges and lay before the Board the acco't. of their produce since, & expences in looking after the Villages.
p62 (consultation of 27 Apr 1722): [The report on Egmore village etc., inc:] we have traced the old registers and find the Villages of Egmore Tandoor & Perswacca were granted the Hon'ble. Company by the Grand Vizier Assid Cawn as Pr. a translate of his Perwanna enter'd after Consultation the 25th. of February 1692/3.
In Consultation June 13th. 1693 It was agreed not to endeavour the improvement of Egmore &c. Villages till they had been a longer time in the Hon'ble. Company's hands for fear the Moors should by seeing the growing advantage thereof endeavour to take them away.
[The exact wording of the Jun 1693 resolution was: "That the new Towns Yegmore, Tandore, & Passivacca being capable in [time] of considerable Emprovement in their rents, be not this year emproved to a greater produce, then they yeilded ye last year, whilst in the hands of the Moors: Because it would be a means to have them taken from us, if the advance should be known to the Countrey Goverment, till wee have a further confirmation of their grant"]
In Consultation July 19th. 1694 the Tanks at Egmore Persiawacca & Tandoor were order'd to be repair'd before the rains came in out of the produce of said Towns which charge was calculated at 30 Pags, and Toddy and Cadjue seeds were then order'd to be planted round the Villages and in all barren ground about them.
[Details of the very variable results over subsequent years are then given, before recounting the latest developments]
... the H'ble. Company by keeping said Villages in their own hands are not like to make 2/3ds. of what they us'd to rent for all which being maturely consider'd and no one offering near the usual rent, the only course that remains to be taken we think is a tryal at Outcry.
[This proposal agreed by council, to be held 10 May]
p67 (consultation of 12 May 1722): The Villages of Egmore &c. were according to ord'r. of Consultation of the 27th. Ult. put up at publick Outcry at the Sea Gate to farm, where a great number of Inhabitants appear'd but no one bidding more than 1360 Pags. which being far Short of the former rent, the President bought them in for the Hon'ble: Company.
p78 (consultation of 14 Jun 1722): Stephen Newcome Overseer of Egmore &c. Villages pays into Cash Pagodas four hundred in part of the produce thereof and Pags. 100 in part of Pags. 250 advanc'd him out of Cash the 22d. Septemb'r. 1720 in order to help the Inhabitants in the buying Cattle and necessarys to till the Ground.
p87 (consultation of 9 Jul 1722): Pursuant to an order of Consultation of the 16th. ult. the President publish'd the resolution of the Board Viz't. that the Villages of Egmore Persiawaack, & Tondoorwood would be let to farm for the term of three years at 1360 Pags. Pr. annum and accordingly rec'd. Proposals from three of the Inhabitants of the said Villages Viz't. Kisna Redde Annade Moodalare and Porrapa Moodalare for taking the same at the aforesaid rent Poncala Kisna to be security for payment of said rent which being accepted a Cowle was made out & executed accordingly.
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1723" (1930)|
|p127 (consultation of 28 Nov 1723, petition from local village tenants): ... the year 1720 was a year of famine, and the villages did not yield anything near the amount of their rents, but that nevertheless Mr. Hastings, the then President, did oblige your Petitioners to pay the whole rent, but promised to refer their Case to the Hon'ble. Company.|
Two years being now pass'd and consequently an Answer to those Letters received, Your Petitioners therefore pray that if the Hon'ble. Company have thought fit to order any or all of the said overpayment to be return'd your Petitioners, Your Honr. &c. will be pleasd to pay the same ...
[petition accepted by Council]
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1725" (1930)|
|p48 (consultation of 22 Mar 1725): In the late Scarcity of grain in the Years 1717, 18 & 19 the letter Peons tappies &c. having been allow'd three Quarters instead of half fanam batty Pr. Diem which has been Continued ever since tho' the Scarcity has been over a great while,|
ORDER'D that for the future the Paymaster pay no more than half a fanam Pr. Diem.