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Maharashtra’s Solution to Famine Woes- Abolish The Word ‘Famine’

September 5, 2010

How to solve the problems such as illiteracy, malnutrition, hunger, famine etc. ? Ask legislators of Maharasthra of the year 1963 and chances are that you might get a very interesting answer– abolish the use of word, problem solved! That’s what exactly happened in 1963 when the state of Maharasthra ended famine for ever by passing an Act called as Maharashtra Deletion of the term “Famine” Act, 1963.  The act replaced the word famine with scarcity and here is the rational behind the Act:

WHEREAS the agricultural situation in the State is constantly watched by the State Government, and relief measures as warranted by the situation are provided as soon as signs of scarcity conditions are apparent, so that there is no scope for famine conditions to develop [You can read the full Act here]

That’s the height of absurdity. I came to know about this absurd Act while reading Magsaysay Award winning journalist and activist P Sainath’s article. Here is an excerpt from the article but you should read it completely.

In 1963, the government of Maharashtra ended famine forever in the State. It did this without adding a morsel to anyone’s diet. It did so simply by passing an Act in the Legislature that deleted the word ‘famine’ from all laws of the State. No kidding. This was called ‘The Maharashtra Deletion Of The Term “Famine” Act, 1963” (And was dug up after decades by an independent researcher from Bangalore.)

The basis for this? Let the Act explain itself. It asserts that “there is now no scope for famine conditions to develop.” Why so? Because “the agricultural situation in the State is constantly watched by the State government.” And “relief measures as warranted by the situation are provided as soon as signs of scarcity conditions are apparent.” Goodbye Famine.

The next para says the term ‘famine’ “ has now become obsolete, and requires therefore to be deleted” (emphasis added) from “other laws on the subject in their application to the State.” It decrees that “for the words ‘famine or acute scarcity’ the word ‘scarcity’ shall be substituted,” in all laws of the State. Lucky Maharashtra — it can’t ever have acute scarcity either. [P. Sainath, The Hindu]

Picture credit: Flickr user Austin Yoder| Used under Creative Commons License

P Sainath Article: The Hindu and Counterpunch.org


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