891.49/2–351: Telegram

The Ambassador in India (Henderson) to the Secretary of State


1944. This morning during conversations with Munshi, Food Minister, Taylor1 posed this question; if you were pressed to estimate increase in number of deaths throughout India which would result from having only 6 million tons food grain for rationing purposes 1951 instead 9 million tons, taking into consideration increased deaths from diseases, what would you reply? Munshi said that when Indian Embassy Washington asked that question he refused provide them with estimate and also refused send pictures famine conditions, particularly any evidence famine deaths. He felt that to do so would undermine his own position India. As he was struggling prevent famine deaths, any pictures to illustrate such deaths would only supply evidence his failure. Moreover they would create panic India which would make his food distribution problem even more difficult to solve. Sahay,2 new Secretary Food and Agriculture injected remark that famine death evidence was double-edged sword.

Taylor then suggested that if he were pressed answer such question he would be inclined say that if confronted with above-mentioned reduction ration supplies India might have extra 1 million or 2 million deaths in addition to 8 or 10 million deaths normally occurring but such deaths mostly from disease which undernourished bodies would be less able survive. Sahay commented this was as good reply as could be made. Munshi added that in parts of Madras and Bihar there would probably be an increase in death rate because shortage food; however he was sensitive any reference to hunger deaths. For example, when one man in Madras was reported to have died from hunger, Madras Government appointed five committees to investigate death in connection food distribution problems.

Embassy believes inadvisable stress deaths from hunger when dealing with GOI request US food grains.

  1. Clifford C. Taylor, Agricultural Counselor of the Embassy in New Delhi.
  2. Vishnu Sahay.