290. There is no separate famine history of the
Buldana District prior to the cession in 1853, but certain conclusions can be drawn from the references to famine in Berar and Central India generally. Probably Buldana suffered in common with the rest of Berar from the severe famine which occurred early in the reign of Muhammad II about 1378, and from the one which took place in the reign of; Muhammad III about 1473 and 1474. In the latter. famine it is stated that most of the people who escaped death from starvation fled to Malwa and Gujarat, and did not return home for a long time. About 156 years later during the reign of the Emperor Shah Jahan of Delhi, the rams of 1630 completely failed with the result that there was a severe famine. Unfortunately the famines came on at a time of war between Delhi and Ahmadnagar The imperial forces, numbering 50,000, encamped at Deulgaon Raja in the Chikhli taluk for days together and made the condition of the country still worse. Measures of relief, though adopted, were miserably inadequate The famine of 1630 is thus described in the official chronicles of Shah Jahan's reign.
Buyers were ready to give a life for a loaf, but
seller was there none. The flesh of dogs was sold as
that of goats, and the bones of the dead were ground down with the flour sold
in the market, but the punishment of those who profited by such traffic produced yet
direr results. Men devoured one another and came to regard the flesh of their children as sweeter than their love. The inhabitants fled afar to other tracts till the corpses of those who fell by the way checked those who came after, and in the lands of Berar, which had been famous for their fertility and prosperity, no trace of habitation remained.'
The District suffered again in 1804 from famine. General Wellesley writing about 1804 says: 'Sindkhed (in the Mehkar taluk) is a nest of thieves. The situation of this country is shocking; the people are starving in hundreds, and there is no government to afford the slightest relief.'
The District does not appear to have been very seriously affected by the famine of 1833, though this was still talked of by the Berar Kunbi forty years later.
In 1871-72 there was a failure of crops, and the price of juari, the staple food of the District, rose to 13 seers per rupee. Six relief works were started in the old Buldana District; the work consisted entirely of road construction and was carried out at a cost of Rs.,5000.
The year 1877-78 was a trying one as prices rose high and the grain pits were almost exhausted by the large demand for export. A period of prosperity then ensued, and in 1893 so remote did the idea of famine seem that the Commissioner felt justified in reporting that a programme of relief works was not required for Berar. This illusion was, however, soon rudely dispelled.
291. The famine of 1896-97 was caused by the
abrupt cessation of the rains at the
end of August. The District received
5.53 inches in June, and 9.45 inches in July, and prospects were then favourable; but after a fail of 3'72 inches in August the monsoon came to a sudden close. The total rainfall of the yew was only 21 inches 28 cents
as against a decennial average of 35 inches 28 cents. The kharif crops gradually dried up and the land became too hard and dry for the garmination of the rabi crops. The outturn of the kharif crop was only a third of the average, and the rabi crop only an eighth. In the Malkapur taluk the failure of the rains and of the crops was most complete; the stocks were low, the condition of the people bad, and prices very high. In the upland taluks of Mehkar and Chikhli the rains failed and the crops suffered badly, and there would have been more distress but for the fact that this tract contained fewer labourers, and there was a fairly good crop in the adjoining districts of the dominion of His Highness the Nizam. Juari, which is the staple food of the population, sold at an average rate of 9 seers per rupee during the distress, while it was a little over 23 seers per rupee in the two previous years, which were normal. The price rose to a maximum of 6½ seers per rupee during the latter end of June and early in July 1897. The failure of the crops and the sudden rise in prices called for action on the part of the Government. In October orders were issued for the preparation of a programme of relief works, and in November the Bombay Famine Code was applied. Government relief did not begin till March, but in the interval private enterprise did much to cope with the distress caused by the high prices. In the Malkapur taluk juari committees were formed at two centres Malkapur and Nandura, and subscriptions received in kind; shops were opened and juari was sold at moderate rates. Elsewhere cheap grain shops were opened, and the poorer classes were thus enabled to purchase grain at moderate prices when the market rate was abnormally high and no labour was obtainable. Towards the end of February test works were opened by the District Board in the form of road repairs, and as theseproved the existence of distress, other works consisting of road repair and tank improvements were taken in hand by the same agency from time to time. The District Board spent a sum of Rs. 27,816 on these famine relief works, and a further sum of Rs. 3685 on works which, though not debited to famine relief, were specially sanctioned to meet the distress. Large public works were opened from March to July. The chief work carried out was the improvement of the Nagpur dak line road at a cost of Rs. 10,974. The collection of broken metal also provided considerable work, Rs. 12,279 being spent in this way. The total cost of the works was Rs. 50,603. The maximum number on the works was 6289 in June 1897. Gratuitous relief was also given to those who for various reasons were considered to be incapable of work. Relief was not given in the villages at the homes of the people, but lists of the deserving having been drawn up and thoroughly checked, weekly or daily tickets were given which entitled the recipients to certain doles from grain shops established at 17 centres in the-District. In this way 205,170 units were relieved at a cost of Rs. 20,978. In case of emergency patels were empowered to give relief in the villages. In addition dependents of workers were relieved at the works, 40,296 units in this way being relieved at a cost of Rs. 1334. Six poor-houses were established in the District from the beginning of April, a total of 159,700 units being admitted to this form of relief at a total cost of Rs. 15,678. The total amount spent on gratuitous relief was Rs. 37,990. Throughout the District private charity was dispensed with most remarkable liberality. A grant of Rs. 5000 was received from the Indian Famine Charitable Relief Fund and about Rs. 19,000 were collected in the District. The cheap grain shops have already been referred to. In many of the large towns and villages, notably in the Malkapur
taluk, there was a daily distribution of ghuger, plain boiled juari, and immense numbers of the poor received help in this way. Clothing was also distributed by private gentlemen. A sum of Rs. 29,798 was advanced under the Land Improvement Loans Act, and Rs. 2169 under the Agriculturists' Loans Act. Although special instructions were issued providing for suspension of revenue in necessary cases, very little advantage was taken of the concession. The cultivators preferred to pay and in November 1897 a balance of Rs. 19,068 only remained for collection out of a demand of Rs. 11,58,937. To sum up, relief measures lasted till 31st October 1897 and during the period the highest number of persons to whom assistance was given in one day was 126,381 on the second Saturday of July 1897, which is equal to 26.27 Per cent. of the total population of the District. The total expenditure on relief was nearly 1½ lakhs.
292. In the early months of the famine, the rise
in the price of juari above 16 seers
was the signal for an outbreak of
petty thefts and insignificant dacoities, which reached a figure never attained before. But many of the cases were mere raids of hungry men on the standing crops, and the crime was generally of a mild description. The months of January and February before the opening of Government relief works were an anxious time, as the complete failure of the rabi crops and the absence of all demand for labour, rendered the distress very acute. Several dacoities occurred along the western border and also in the Amrapur and Chikhli circles, but the establishment of patrols enabled the police gradually to restore security. In 1897 when the rains held off and prices remained very high, there was a large increase of petty thefts and petty burglaries, and of cattle thefts and cattle killing, but the cases were very simple and easily
detected and appear to have frequently been committed by people, who regarded a few months in jail with regular food as preferable to a precarious existence outside. Throughout the year, although the amount of crime was greatly in excess of normal, it was never of a very serious nature and there were no signs of an aggressive contempt of authority or a disposition to resist and obstruct the law.
293. Up to June 1897 the District was much healthier than in the previous two years,
but the consumption of jungle vegetables during the rains produced a violent epidemic of cholera in July, August and September, and diarrhoea and dysentery carried off many victims. For the year ending 31st August 1897 the death-rate was 41.91 per mille as against 46.05 in the previous year, the highest figure being reached in August with a rate of 11.62 per mille. The next month September was also a very unhealthy month with a death-rate of 11.52 per mille. The birth-rate up to 31st August 1897 does not appear to have been affected by the famine as it was 4480 per mille as against 42.13 in the previous year and slightly exceeded the average mean of the preceding ten years.
294. The harvests of 1897-98 and 1898-99 were
both above the average, and at the beginning of the rains of 1899-1900
the outlook was favourable. The monsoon began in June with a fall of 6 inches 10 cents. The kharif sowings were almost up to normal, 800,893 acres being sown as against an average of 820,274. After June the rainfall was quite inadequate, the fall in July being 2.62 inches, in August 1.52 inches, and in September 1.36 inches. After September no more rain fell, and the total rainfall was only 12.27 inches as against an average of 33 inches. The kharif crops withered away, and little or no spring crops could be sown. The loss
caused to the District by this failure of rains was enormous. The normal outturn of the principal food crops, juari and wheat, in the preceding ten years had been 15 lakhs of maunds; the outturn of 1899-1900 is estimated to have been only 414 maunds, and the money loss represented by this difference is calculated at Rs. 33 ¾ lakhs, The failure of the crops caused the prices of food grains to rise by leaps and bounds. Shortly before the famine, juari was cheaper than it had been for many years, and in June 1899 it was selling at 36 seers a rupee. By the 15th September it had risen to 16 seers, and by the end of that month to 10 seers. After that it fluctuated from 9 to 7 seers till the following October, reaching its maximum in June, July and August.
295. As early as August the possibility of a severe
famine was realized, and the Deputy
Commissioner was instructed to consider what test-works could best be opened by District Boards in case of necessity. Two such works were opened in September, metal-breaking being the task set, and these were handed over to the Public Works Department as relief works in December 1899 and January 1900. Large works managed by the Public Works Department and under the general control of the Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner were opened early in November, and formed the backbone of relief throughout the famine. This second famine, coming so soon after the first, took the Administration by surprise, and no approved programme of relief works, with matured plans and estimates, was ready. The Public Works Department was also found unprepared with tools and establishment. The result was that in the first few months the works were disorganized. They were swamped by a rush of people including a large number of immigrants from Hyderabad, and, as a full task could
not be exacted, the people squatted down and from January to March were practically in receipt of gratuitous relief. The numbers rose to 140,000 in January or 29 per cent, of the total population. From December to February it was calculated that 20,000 immigrants from Hyderabad were on works in the Chikhli taluk, and in March they were marched to the border and handed over to the Hyderabad authorities. With improved organization and the stiffening of the tasks, the numbers gradually fell to 86,000 in June or 18 per cent. of the population. It had been found necessary to reduce the minimum wage in January from 12 to 9½ chittacks, and this measure also helped to bring about the reduction. From December 1899 to the end of July 1900 the numbers on relief works exceeded 15 per cent. of the total population every month, and all previous estimates of the extent to which relief would be required turned out to be fallacious. The works carried out consisted of breaking stone metal, on which nearly Rs. 20 lakhs were spent earthwork and ballast collection for the Jalna-Chikhli Khamgaon steam tramway, which was contemplated as a useful feeder line, and which absorbed nearly Rs. 6 lakhs; and the construction and deepening of tanks, to which Rs.3 ¾ lakhs were devoted. The money spent on the Jalna-Khamgaon line was wasted, as the line was subsequently abandoned and the land given back to the cultivators. It is also doubtful whether much of the metal work was of permanent utility, as a considerable portion was stacked in places too far from the main roads to make it worth carting. The total expenditure in the works was Rs. 27,25,161 and the cost of the same at the ordinary rates would have been Rs. 5,65,087. One cause of the high cost was the disorganization of the works during the first few months, and another cause was that the people soon realized that whatever quantity
of work they did they would at any rate get the minimum wage which was sufficient for their subsistence. At the end of the hot weather the policy of opening small village works was adopted with the view of getting the people back to their homes in time for the field work a few large works being kept open till November to provide work for such people as were not required in the villages. The people were at first reluctant to leave the large works—a testimony to the easy time they had enjoyed there—and some pressure had to be brought by the reduction of wages. In July the number on village works was 41,000, and this gradually fell as the demand for field labour grew. The works mainly consisted of cleaning village sites, improving and repairing village roads, and carrying broken metal along the main roads. Wages were given in the form of grain, and the village officials were responsible that only those needing relief were admitted, admission to the larger works being by ticket only. The expenditure on village works was a little over Rs. 2 lakhs.
296. Gratuitous relief fell under four main heads,
namely, relief of non-working children
and other dependants of relief workers on large works, village doles given in grain, poor-houses and state kitchens. From an early stage in the famine all dependants were fed in kitchens on large works. The highest number so relieved was 28,000 or 32 per cent. of the workers in April 1900. The cost of this relief was nearly Rs.1 ¾ lakhs, and this was the cheapest form of relief, the incidence of cost per head being only 8 pies. Village relief was started in November 1899. Lists of those eligible under the Code were prepared and checked for each village; and assistance in this form was given to some of the inferior village servants. The daily average number relieved was 3953 or 8 per cent of the population, the highest figure (6928) being reached
at the end of July 1900. The total cost was a little over Rs. 1⅓ lakhs, and the incidence per head was 1 anna
5 pies. Three poor-houses were opened, one at the headquarters of each taluk,
namely, Chikhli, Mehkar and Malkapur. These were used as depots for emaciated
and weak vagrants, and might almost be regarded as infirmaries. The numbers were
kept down by a constant process of weeding out, healthy people being sent to
relief works or to their homes. The highest number of inmates was 4675 in June
1900, the Chikhli poor-house contributing over 2000 to this figure. The total
cost was Rs. 45,000, the incidence per head being 1 anna 2 pies. The system of State kitchens was started in May, and in all 59 were opened. The average daily number relieved was 18,219 or 3.8 per cent. of the total population, the maximum figure of 30,572 being reached in July 1900. The cost was nearly Rs. 21/3 lakhs, and the incidence of cost per head was one anna. This form of relief was much abused. principally by children who flocked to the kitchens in shoals, and it was acknowledged afterwards that the restrictions on admission were not sufficient. For both forms of gratuitous relief—doles and kitchens—the highest numbers were recorded in June and July 1900, when the percentage of those relieved to the total population was about 7.
297. Loans to the amount of Rs. 36,500 were ad
vanced under the Land Improvement Loans Act, and of Rs. 41,727
under the Agriculturists' Loans Act. Under the former Act the greater portion of the advances were made for the repair and construction of wells, under the latter for the purchase of cattle. In connection with the recovery of land revenue strict orders were issued to the Tahsildars that no harshness or unnecessary pressure should be used, but owing to the method followed of making individual enquiries the relief given was neither
speedy nor adequate. By 1903-04 the amount remitted
on account of the famine was about Rs. 1½ lakhs or nearly
12 per cent. of the total land-revenue demand of 1899-1900.
298. Private charity was at work in the Malkapur
taluk as early as September 1899.
In that month a juari committee was formed at Malkapur and a cheap grain shop opened similar committees were formed and shops opened at Nandura and Badner Bhulji during September and October. In the smaller villages also efforts were made to provide extra labour for the poorer classes, and subscriptions in juari were given for this purpose. These arrangements were not maintained after the opening of Government relief works. The Pentecostal and Faith Missions also did good work in providing employment for distressed labourers, supporting orphans, and distributing clothes and American corn and also medicines to the sick. In April 1900 meetings were held to collect subscriptions in connection with the. Indian Famine Charitable Relief Fund, a District committee and three taluk committees being formed to manage and administer the Fund. A grant of Rs. 1,43,000 was received from the Central Committee, and Rs. 18,231 were raised locally. Of this sum Rs. 24,000 were spent in providing the inmates of the poor-houses and kitchens, and others shown to be in need with clothes.; small sums were also devoted to the relief of orphans, the respectable poor and the weavers of Deulgaon Raja; but the bulk of the fund amounting to over a lakh of rupees was utilized in providing the poorer cultivators with seed-grain and bullocks. This latter form of relief was of inestimable value, over 16,000 cultivators being relieved, and it is estimated that 219,193 acres of land were cultivated, which but for this assistance would have remained waste.
299. There was practically no fodder available
except in the Mehkar taluk, where
the juari had grown to a sufficient height to provide karbi, and in the hilly parts of that taluk there was a certain amount of grass. The prickly pear was used as fodder in one circle of the Chikhli taluk, and a certain amount of grass was imported from the Melghat and the Central Provinces, but the rates were too prohibitive for the poorer cultivators. Many cattle were kept alive on the leaves and young shoots of the babul, pipal, turn and other trees, and trees of all kinds were stripped bare for this purpose. From the Malkapur taluk many head of cattle were sent to graze in the Satpura Hills in the Central Provinces, but it is estimated that only one-fourth of the number sent returned alive. No measures were taken for importing grass, but various forest concessions were given. Cattle covered by C class passes were permitted to graze in A class forest land; handstripping of the anjan leaves from A and C forests was permitted at the nominal rate of 2 annas a month; and from the 1st May for a period of six weeks the removal of grass in headloads free of all dues was allowed. The total value of these concessions is estimated to have been Rs. 14,000. Under the circumstances of the year a heavy mortality among the cattle was inevitable. At a low estimate 28 per cent. of the total number are said to have perished.
300. There was a great increase of offences against property, the number of
cases reported being almost three times that of the previous year. Thirty
dacoity cases were registered, but half of them were
only technical dacoities. A large proportion of the theft
cases occurred in the vicinity of famine relief works and
about 75 per cent. were of a trifling nature, the property stolen being generally either eatables or cooking pots to be sold for food. There were a large number of cattle thefts, and many more occurred which were not reported. as the loss of a bullock, which the owner could not feed. was not considered a very grievous loss. The police were called upon to perform many extra duties under the Famine Code, and a great strain was thrown upon the force. The mortality of the District did not rise much above the normal till January. when it suddenly rose to 6.19 per mille. Cholera of a severe type prevailed in February, and the death rate rose to 9.61 per mille in that month and to 9.10 per mille in March. The mortality decreased in April, May and June to 7.18, 8.88 and 7.05 per mille respectively, and this was probably due to the better organization of relief measures and to the departure of the Hyderabad immigrants from the District. In July, August and September the death-rate rose again and reached the very high figures of 12.74, 12.70 and 10.69 per mille respectively. The drinking of polluted water and the consumption of fresh jungle vegetables produced another outbreak of cholera in July and August, and diarrhoea, dysentery, and fever were rampant. The death-rate for the year was 95.4, nearly two and a half times the average rate. The year was exceptionally unhealthy, and both rich and poor were affected. The immigration from Hyderabad also helped to send up the death-rate, as many of the immigrants arrived already bearing signs of privation. But it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that much of the excess mortality was the direct result of privation. The birth-rate also showed the effects of the famine; from December 1899 to November 1900 it was 29.3 as against an average rate for the preceding decade of 43.2; it reached its lowest in October 1900 when it was only 1.35 per mille.
301. For over six months about 25 per cent. of the
population were in receipt of relief,
and in the Chikhli taluk the number
on relief in July 1900 reached the extraordinary figure of 54 per cent. of the population. But there is no doubt that these high figures were partly the effect of the inrush of immigrants from Hyderabad. The total Government expenditure on famine relief was Rs. 36⅓ lakhs, which was much the highest figure for Berar. At the Census of 1901 the decrease of population was the largest in the Province, namely 57,405 persons or 11.9 per cent. Each of the three taluks shewed a falling-off, Chikhli and Mehkar taluks being the most affected. Chikhli shewed a decrease of 20,508 persons or 13.7 per cent. while Mehkar shewed a decrease of 32,254 persons or 21 per cent., the largest in the Province. The famine affected all but the wealthy and fairly well-to-do to an unprecedented extent. Many respectable members of the community, who could not accept Government relief, were forced to part with their ornaments and other valuables, and the sacks of copper and other utensils to be seen at Malkapur station at the beginning of the famine awaiting transmission to Bombay were melancholy evidence of the straits to which they were reduced. The lower castes such as Mahars and Mangs stood the famine better than the agricultural class and their physical condition throughout was superior. The Kunbi is naturally a lazy man, getting the greater portion of his work done for him in ordinary years, and he had in consequence become soft and flabby. One effect of the famine was that the people to an enormous extent got over their superstitious repugnance to accepting Government relief; breaking stone metal instead of being looked down upon as convict labour ' rose to the honourable distinction of being Government service. The general
opinion was that from a famine of such unparalleled severity the District would require at least five good seasons for a complete recovery. The recovery was quicker than was expected. The year following the famine was one of bumper crops, and the next four years were also favourable. Many people were able to pay off their debts, and the value of land increased considerably. The wages of labour also rose much above their normal level. Since 1906 there has been a certain setback to the prosperity of the District, on account of the defective rainfall and the fall in the price of cotton, but there is every reason to think that with one or two good harvests the positionof the cultivator will again be placed on a sound basis.