The Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Merrell) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 26—3:20 p.m.]
583. In a very frank conversation with Berry70 last night, the Director General of Supply bitterly criticized the food policy of the Central Government and particularly the manner in which it is handling very serious famine conditions in Bengal. He said it had been obvious for a year that imports of wheat are only solution and added that six shiploads of wheat from Australia or elsewhere would remedy matters. He contends that United States or Britain should immediately make these ships and supplies available in view Bengal’s strategic relation to war effort. People of Bengal who are daily dying of starvation in large numbers will, he said, eat wheat in absence of rice despite considerable contrary opinion. He added he had [Page 297] just come from conference with high ranking British General to whom he had said in substance:
“It is all very well for military to say ‘Give us the stones to throw and we will do the rest’ but how am I to get the stones from a hostile and starving population”.
He said neither present Viceroy71 nor British military appreciate the grave dangers involved in operating from a base where economic and political conditions are such as exist in India today. He expressed hope Wavell would view matter differently.
Mission requests cabled information whether wheat shipments to Calcutta have left Canada or United States or are contemplated and in what quantities. Local representative British Ministry War Transport says wheat already shipped from Canada.