Food and the Bengal famine

Food and the Bengal famine
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First Published: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 11 19 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 11 19 PM IST
In “Beyond the usual explanations” (Mint, 29 May), Amartya Sen mentions that one of the causes of the 1943 Bengal famine was the rapid increase of income and greater consumption of food by the urban population. To keep this population contented, the British procured rice from villages and then distributed it at heavily subsidized rates. This did not ease the situation. I witnessed the famine from close quarters. During 1943-44, I was in Kolkata. Rice was not easily available. Our family had to subsist on other cereals. The main cause of the famine was intentional hoarding of rice by the British to create extreme shortage of grain in the rural areas. The motives were purely political: to teach the people of Bengal a lesson for their role in the national movement.
— Sanjit Sen
I read Salil Tripathi’s piece on Vijay Tendulkar (“The original Tendulkar: RIP”, Mint, 29 May). My congratulations on making readers aware of Tendulkar’s brutally honest perspective on the reality of middle- class India. There have been a few commentaries and TV shows on Tendulkar conducted by some really talented commentators and it’s great to know that he has had a positive effect on a generation of writers and commentators across the lingua.
As you rightly point out, Tendulkar lifted the facade off the Indian middle class who actually found him— unsurprisingly though—unacceptable during his early writing days.
I think you understand Tendulkar well. It was a great tribute to the genius of a writer and observer. He easily ranks among some of the best writers of our time, though he downplayed his own achievements.
- Rajeev Kashikar
Apropos the editorial “Going back to the future” (Mint, 27 May).
ICICI Bank has made a total U-turn ever since it adopted the universal banking business model after converting its predecessor ICICI. The strategic shift to corporate banking cannot change its fortunes. It may appear that the bank has taken a right call, given its bad experience in retail lending.
By its very nature, the business of banking has grave risks—retail or corporate. Added to this is the lack of appraisal skills among bankers, something that can only worsen the situation. Although size has its advantages, big banks all over the world (for example Citibank) have been facing turbulent times. The size of a bank, enabling it to have an edge over its competitors in financing big companies, brings with it several other limitations.
The inability of Indian banks to meet the shortfall in funding Tata Steel for its merger with Corus has been cited as one reason for promoting the creation of big banks. But the truth is that small banks score over big banks on several parameters. It’s high time that banking experts revisited the issue and issued advice that is appropriate to the situation.
- K.V. Rao
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First Published: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 11 19 PM IST