Famine is a dire calamity, especially in an agricultural country like Pakistan. The horrors and the miser which occur are simply indescribable.
Famine means scarcity of food grains. It occurs when the rains fail, and the harvest is not sufficient. Prices go up, and the poor people suffer. Export of food grains from a country which does not produce enough corn for itself may be another cause of famine. Locusts and other insects, also, sometimes damage crops, or diseases or worms, may destroy plants, and the harvest may fail. Where crops depend entirely upon rain, untimely rain or too much or too little of it may result in famine. Religious people would ascribe it to the wrath of God. They regard such heavenly visitations as sure indications that God is displeased with men for their sins punish hes them to wean them from their follies.
However that may be, famines are a great curse. They entail great suffering on the people, and put a severe strain on the faith, patience, and powers of endurance of men. Starvation is the direct result of famine, Prices are high, and because even rich people are affected. all work stops, business is dull, and poor people find it hard to earn their living. Sometimes the distress is very acute. Thousands of people die, hundreds of widows and orphans wander from place to place, destitute and helpless. Goaded by hunger, people commit the most atrocious crimes. All humane feelings are suppressed. Mothers leave their young ones on the roadside, or sell them for corn, or a small sum of money. In some cases, men have turned cannibals. Such revolting cases of cruelty, and such heart-rending sights are quite common in those days of scarcity. It is difficult to describe the sufferings of the people. Besides starvation and misery, diseases such as cholera, dysentery, lever etc., also break out in epidemic form. As a result of underfeeding, public health suffers.
Our country, being chiefly agricultural, is very often a prey to famines. They recur every third or fourth year, and it would not be far wrong to say that they have become chronic in the country.
The government adopts relief measures to mitigate the sufferings of the people. Relief works, such as the digging of tanks and the construction of canals and roads are opened to provide work for the poor people, so that they may be able to earn their living. Charitable funds are opened, and public subscriptions are raised to help the poor and the needy. People open orphanages and poor houses. Besides these relief measures, precautionary measures are adopted to prevent famines. These are more useful and are more permanent in their effects. More land is brought under cultivation, so that more grain may be produced. Canals and tanks are dug, as in Punjab, to irrigate the fields, so as to make land less dependent on the rains. Improved scientific methods of cultivation, and the use of new implements are encouraged, so that the productive power of land may increase, and the cost and labour may be lessened. These measures confer a lasting boon on the country.
Encouragement of old and starting of new industries as another very useful measure which will lessen the evil effects of famines in an agricultural country like Pakistan. Pakistan is a very poor country, and great efforts are needed to rid it of the scourge of famine.