FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1764 (a): Mewar, Rajasthan|
|Documented causes: war (+ drought?)|
|Documented effects: official relief impossible|
|James Tod, "Annals and antiquities of Rajasthan" (vol. 1, 1920)|
|p497: [S. 1820, A.D. 1764.] "Malhar Rao Holkar … after many threatening letters, invaded Mewar, and his threats of occupying the capital were only checked by draining their exhausted resources of six hundred thousand pounds. In the same year, a famine afflicted them, when flour and tamarinds were equal in value, and were sold at the rate of a rupee for one pound and a half." [text also in 1829 edition, vol. 1, p 426]|
|1764 (b?): Bengal|
|Documented causes: maladministration?|
|Documented effects: "ruin"|
|Imperial Record Department, Calcutta, "Calendar Of Persian Correspondence" (vol. 1, 1911)|
|p369 (summary of letter from Muhammad Riza Khan, administrator of revenue in Bengal, to the Governor at Calcutta, 30 Dec 1764): [part of the strained negotiation process for transferring control of Bengal's revenue from Mir Jafar, Nawab of Bengal, to the East India Company, following the victory at the Battle of Buxar in which they had been (nominally) allies] "The Nawab has after a long conversation consented to receive in payment about Rs. 27,60,000. Represents that the country has been entirely ruined by famine and that for the last six months during which he has been detained at Murshidabad, the affairs of Dacca have been in a state of confusion. The Nawab is displeased with him. Although His Excellency says that of this large sum if two or three lakhs of rupees remain unpaid, they will be accounted for by the Sarkar in the next year's payment and not demanded of him now, yet he cannot put any trust in this promise."|
[As it happened, Mir Jafar, who was in his seventies, died on 17 January 1765. It seems doubtful that the famine was anywhere near as serious as he implied, for it does not seem to be mentioned in other records.]
|1764 scarcity (from 1763): Bihar|
|Documented causes: political scheming?|
|Documented effects: army hunger and discontent|
|"Reports from Committees of the House of Commons, Volume 3" (ND, c1803)|
|p365-6 (from the "Third Report on the Nature, State, and Condition of the East India Company"- 8 Apr 1773): [from a letter to the Council in Fort William by Capt. William Jennings, encamped at Sarsaram, 28 Feb 1764] "The Army's only Complaint is the Dearness and great Scarcity of Provision in our Buzar - The Budgpoor country has been entirely ruined by Cossim Aly Cawn's Army, and it is with great Difficulty we can get Supplies at any Rate; most part comes from Patna. I have written to Mr. Batson, who has promised to assist us all that is in his Power: I likewise dispatch large Parties twice a Week to Patna for Grain; but notwithstanding which, I am greatly afraid we shall be but ill provided; at present the Black Troops and Servants can barely live upon their Pay. If it should be judged necessary for the Army to remain in the Budgpoor Country, I would recommend that Magazines for supplying the Troops be erected at Buxar, with a proper Detachment to remain there as a Guard to The Magazine. Buxar lies very convenient to be supplied with Grain from Patna, and the adjacent Countries, by Water, which will greatly lessen the Price of all Kinds of Provisions, and likewise be nearer for supplying any Part of the Budgpoor Country. Our present Land Carriage from Patna raises the Price of Rice, &c., in our Buzar a hundred per cent. more than the Patna market, besides the Uncertainty occasioned by the Merchants selling at different Places on the Road." ...|
[Also discussed at the same Consultation in Fort William, 12 March 1764, were two letters from Major Carnac at Patna, dated 1 and 2 Mar 1764 respectively:] "... the latter representing the great Inconvenience to which the Army is exposed on Account of the extraordinary Scarcity and Dearness of all Sorts of Grain, and the Discontent which it occasions among the Troops; and requesting that we will send Orders to Burdwan and Cossimbuzar, for forwarding them Supplies as speedily as possible ...
Agreed, We reply to these Letters of Major Carnac's; acquainting him, that immediately on Receipt of his last letter, the President wrote to the Nabob, desiring he would send Orders to his Officers in Purnes, Dinagepoor, and Radshy, and the other Districts, where Grain is most plentifully produced, to collect all they could, and send large Quantities to Patna; and recommending to him, as we look upon this the best and most likely Expedient for procuring Supplies, to repeat the Necessity of enforcing these Orders: That the Stores for Captain Pimble's Detachment are now sending up to Ghyrottee, and that it will be ordered to march from thence as soon as they are completed: ..." [Further letters from Major Carnac over the next few weeks indicate that "Dividend" payments were made to the soldiers to stave off mutiny; those who did commit serious insubordination were executed by being tied over the mouth of a cannon.]
p368 (from the "Third Report on the Nature, State, and Condition of the East India Company"- 8 Apr 1773): [from the Consultation at Fort William, 3 Apr 1764; advising Major Carnac of priorities when dealing with the Nawab:] "... we should be glad to know further, who are the Principal Officers about his Court and in his Councils: That we know Nundcomar to be one, and to have the chief Management of his Correspondence:- And as we have had too frequent Experience of this Man's intriguing Disposition, and are certain that he has many Connections in Shuja Dowla's Court, [i.e. Oudh / Awadh] we have Reason to suspect that he will employ these Connections, at so critical a Juncture as this, against our Government, as a Security for himself in all Circumstances:- That we cannot be too much on our Guard against any such Designs, and we should wish therefore to have him entirely removed from the Nabob's Service:- That, if he thinks he can bring the Nabob to consent to his Dismission, we would have it done immediately, but that, if he thinks the Nabob will not consent to it, we would have him keep those Sentiments entirely to himself, least it should cause a Jealousy in the Nabob, or excite Nundcomar to form worse Designs, from the Apprehension of such an Event, and content himself with taking all possible Precautions to prevent his carrying on any Correspondence with the Enemy:- That it is evident there has been a shameful Neglect with respect to collecting Grain for the Army, since Meer Cossim was driven out of the Country before the Harvest was reaped; and there never was known a more plentiful Crop: That this we cannot help regarding as a particular Instance of the Mismanagement or wilful Neglect of Nundcomar, knowing it to have been his Duty, from his Post, to have attended to that Business ..."
[from the Consultation at Fort William, 16 Apr 1764; discussing a letter from Major Carnac dated 4 Apr:] "... the Tenor of Nundcomar's Conduct argues strongly against him; to support which the Major mentions the little Assistance we have as yet received from his Administration, and particularly instances the Distress of the Army for want of Provisions: That the Countries from which we should receive our Supplies, have been by him put into the Hands of Myr Cossim's Creatures ..." [The Council resolved to write a letter to be delivered to the Nawab by Major Carnac, demanding the replacement of Nundcomar by another person of the Nawab's choosing. On 30 April, Carnac advised that, given the tense military situation, he had chosen not to hand over the letter when he met the Nawab.].