The approach should be different in Mains examination while answering topics given for essays
Hyderabad: Today, we will discuss the questions asked from history syllabus of the UPSC in the recent UPSC Mains – 2022 GS – 1 Paper. Decoding and solving recent year’s questions will help us in understanding the most important areas in the syllabus and recent trends of the examination. Focusing more on these areas/topics will help in the upcoming State PCS mains examination too. If we observe the recent mains questions in other State PSCs, a few themes are repeating from the UPSC Mains exam.
The topic for today is “Famines during colonial India since 18th century”. This question is related to Modern India part of the history syllabus in the UPSC and has been asked in the recent Mains – 2022 question paper. Now, we will see how to address this topic in a question-and-answer format.
Why was there a sudden spurt in famines in colonial India since the mid-18th century? Give reasons. (2022)
Before we see the framework and model answer for this question, we shall analyse the question briefly. Generally, in prelims we tend to memorise important events in modern history, say important British reforms, INC events, famines, etc. Here our thought process is in when, where, what questions about the event.
When coming to the Mains, one needs to focus on analysis of these important events. To analyse, we should think about why, and how questions apart from when, where and what. This is the key point one needs to keep in mind during the preparation stage itself – while reading and making notes.
In the mid-18th century, British India was hit by terrible famines on a regular basis due to natural reasons and due to British apathy and economic and administrative policies.
More than 85 million Indians died in these famines.
Examples: Great Bengal Famine (1770), The Chalisa Famine (1783-84), etc
Body: Reasons for sudden spurt in famines since the mid-18th century:
1) Economic exploitation of peasants: After obtaining Diwani rights in 1765, the company increased revenue from 1/10th of produce to 50% of the produce which left peasants with little money to purchase grain seeds for subsequent crops.
2) Commercialisation of agriculture: Farmers were forced to grow cash crops such as cotton, opium, indigo. It reduced the areas under food grains which led to famines.
3) Deindustrialisation: This had led to increased unemployment and enhanced pressure on land with many people were dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and this further increased the intensity of famines.
4) Prohibition of storage of food: The company prohibited storage of food grains by farmers in order to prevent the tax evasion by the farmers.
5) Drain of wealth: Big drain on India’s finances was the cost of maintenance of Britain’s armed forces and funding its wars overseas. Example: Lytton fully utilised Indian revenues to fund his disastrous Afghan war adventure.
6) Fraud of ‘Famine Grant’: Grant, which was supposed to raise enough money to prevent another holocaust like that of 1876-78 recurring. But, nearly 58% of the Rs 17 crore was spent on “protective railways” and in paying “interest upon Indian Midland and Bengal Nagpur railways”.
7) Failure to provide relief: The famine codes of Britishers were not really implemented to provide relief to people.
8) Belief in Malthusian principle: An ardent believer of Malthusian principle, Lytton’s emphasis was always on saving money and he deputed his minion Sir Richard Temple to make sure “unnecessary” expenditure was not done on relief works.
9) Failure of monsoon: In 1899, the monsoon failed in central India and drought burnt crops over a large area impacting almost 60 million people, with food crops losses and livestock death.
10) Outbreak of diseases: In 1770, there was good famine but it was accompanied by outbreak of communicable diseases like malaria and small pox, which increased the miseries.
The British exploitative policies and natural disasters resulted in many famines since the mid-18th century. This resulted in villages wiping off the map completely because almost all of their inhabitants died and lakhs of Indians were forced into starvation. The famines could only be controlled after Independence with the formation of a responsible government.
Do make note of important points from the above model answer and make your answers enriched. We will discuss a few more questions related to recently asked questions in the upcoming articles in this series.