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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: October 2011

CHAPTER 6 - Famines vs. Forests


It is a well-known fact that India from the eighteenth century onwards experienced a series of famines recurring at very short intervals bringing immeasurable sufferings and mortality. Different regions in the country were affected which brought disorder into the lives of millions of people. However, analyses of these famines by historians have rarely included the study of forest zones as the dependent source of sustenance during times of famine. It was overlooked that how forests protected people from starvation and death and how certain communities averted crisis and withstood drought due to their access to natural resources in forests. With the exception of one or two of these types of studies, many works on famines have neglected the impact of state forestry on the traditional methods of survival during scarcity, drought and famines. The present chapter makes an attempt to examine the history and nature of famines and scarcity in the Hyderabad State. In addition to this it endeavours to find to what extent people depended on forests during the times of crisis and the state response to the demands of the people during the famines.

The Hyderabad State, in common with other parts of colonial India, was subject to periodical visitations of famine of a more or less severe character. The State had been witnessing famines since pre-colonial times onwards, which was a common occurrence, mostly due to the delay of monsoon rains. The accounts of famines in the Hyderabad State exist from the seventeenth century.