Millions of people are starving in the rural areas of India -- an estimated 15 million in West Bengal alone -- while food remains available in the country's larger cities.
GV People buying rice and grain from Government store (4 shots)
SV Grain poured into container as father and child watch (2 shots)
SV People at food-distribution centre (2 shots)
SV People waiting for gruel handout (3 shots)
SV People working on construction site (2 shots)
SV Food vouchers being handed to workers
CU Cooking oil
SVs Old people, very emaciated, sitting around (6 shots)
SV Small child wading in muddy pool (2 shots)
Initials BB/1700 PS/JB/BB/1651
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Background: Millions of people are starving in the rural areas of India -- an estimated 15 million in West Bengal alone -- while food remains available in the country's larger cities.
This situation has arisen, any Indian observers feel, because of a deliberate, though tacit, Government policy to keep urban areas supplied with food at the expense of the countryside. Because the cities are politically more active and sophisticated, this theory goes, any open revolts against the Government's failure to cope with the critical food shortage would come first from the urban centres.
Thus, while rice and grain are available at the government-run stores in India's larger cities -- even though the prices are very high -- the famine is worsening throughout the countryside ... and especially in West Bengal.
In the district of Bankura -- where until recently free-gruel kitchens have provided queues of thousands of emaciated peasants with a watery mess of broken wheat, pumpkin and lentils -- even this service is being discontinued because of a lack of funds. For most of Banura's landless labourers, these kitchens have been the sole source of any food at all -- a quarter-pound of the bruel a day, often shared among families of six -- and now desperate Hindus are violating their own religious laws by eating dead cattle.
Meanwhile, the Government has withheld approval for a number of long-range irrigation projects for the area -- projects designed to increase the harvests. It is relying instead on emergency, stop-gap programmes. Now, even the latter have broken down. And, if the Government siphons off still more of the little remaining food in the countryside -- in order to keep the cities calm -- even more of the country's peasants will face starvation.