Orissa News

Period after the Mutiny

The mutiny was dealt with an iron hand by the Govt and was subsequently suppressed.But it was instrumental in making the voices of indians heard to the rulers.This led to an end to the East Indian Company's rule over India.Powers were transferred to the British Queen and The Parliament.The designation of Governor General was discontinued and Viceroys were apapointed in their place.In the process, Lord Canning became the first Viceroy of India.

The Britishers had neglected Orissa for most part of their rule.They had rendered colossal loss to the life and property, destroyed a once booming economy, its maritime trade and inflicted sever blows on the marl of the people. For their administrative suitability they had divided Orissa into terretorial segments and tagged them with different cultural units.Cuttack,Puri and Balasore were tagged to the Bengal Presidency, Sambalpur placed under Central Province administration while Ganjam ,Phulbani and Koraput placed under the Madras Presidency. Apart from this,there were 26 different feudatory states that were ruled by local king who was supervised by a British Politacal Agent.Thus Orissa had completely lost its identity under the British rule. Worse still the Oriya language lost its identity in these regions as Persian, Bengali, Hindi, Telugu and tamil were the languages those were in prevalenec in these sta6tes.As such all the official transactions were carried on in these languages, ignoring the Oriya Language.Also there were deliberate attempts to obliterarte the Oriya language in Orissa by Non-Oriya bureaucrats.

Na’anka Famine of 1866-67

Eight years after the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown, Orissa was hit hard by one of the severest natural calamity in the history of mankind.Known as Na’anka Famine of 1866-67, the disaster wiped out almost one third of its population killing as many as half a million people. The great calamity that had no parallel in the history of mankind occurred in the 9th anka or the 9th reining year of the Gajapati of Puri, King Divyasimbadeva.

The famine was preceded by a drought. A failure of rain in 1865 resulted in the loss of usual crops. The population of the region depended on the rice crop of the winter season for their sustenance; however, the monsoon of 1865 was scanty and stopped prematurely.This was compounded by administrative failure and economic neglect of the state.The Bengal Board of Revenue made incorrect estimates of the number of people who would need help and was misled by fictitious price lists. Consequently, the food reserves began to dwindle and more and more people hungry in want of food.

Compounding to this neglect was the treacherous road condition that existed in the state.During its fifty five years of misrule in the state, the Britishers had done almost nothing to improve the communication sysytem in the territory.The only road that connected Orissa with Calcutta remained unmetalled and unbridged through several large rivers and kept the region flooded for months in every year. Whatever communication the people of Orissa had developed in the earler periods had been totally destroyed by the British. Orissa remained aloof, virtually isolated from the rest of the country. So whatever helps the government sent reached to a very small segment of people; only the ones living within the peripehrial distance of Government mercenaries.The rest were left dying in anticipation of food and help from government quarters. Indifference of the officers, failure to procure food,wrong conclusions regarding the nature of the impeding calamity and above all faulty distribution systems led to disastrous consequences all too suddenly. The actual area of the famine was not too large. Neither did the period of famine drag beyond 8 months but the severity and intensity of the drought was such that nearly one in every three man died in Orissa.

The magnitude of loss of life from Na’anka Famine of 1866-67  shocked the British officials out of slumber.And for the first time in the history of British rule a commission was set up to evaluate the causes and preventionof any such future calamities. Known as “The Famine Commision”, it reported – “The famine in Orissa stands almost alone in this, there was almost no importation and the people shut up in a narrow province between pathless jungles and an impracticable sea, were in the condition of passengers in a ship without provision which could have been met with successfully had there been facilities for transportation.”

To guard against the failure, the President of the Famine Commission Sir George Campbell recommended improving communication as, “the best means of prevention”, alongwith security of tenures for cultivators, and irrigation within reasonable limits’. The Orissa Famine of 1866 worked as a lesion to the British to think of the Indian famines in a wider perspective and find out ways and means how to meet the challenge whenever they occurred anywhere in the sub-continent.