whole subject to more or less free trade (until the inter-war years when a
limited number of industries received tariff protection), but agriculture in
particular remained totally free of any restrictions throughout (so much so
that during the very years of the Great Bengal Famine, rice was being
exported out of Bengal). As a result of this freedom, cash-crop production for
exports expanded, and since very little investment in irrigation took place to
increase gross cropped area (except in the canal colonies of Punjab), this
expansion was at the expense of acreage under food crops.
    Since yields in agriculture were not rising (on the contrary they were
declining in the absence of any changes in the methods of production), this
meant a sharp decline in per capita foodgrain output. The total foodgrain
output during the period 1893-1947 increased at an annual rate of 0.11 per
cent while non-foodgrains increased at the rate of 1.31 per cent; per capita
incomes remained virtually stagnant and since the decline in per capita
foodgrain production was not made up for by any imports, per capita food-
grain availability declined sharply. In Bengal during the inter-war period it
declined by 38 percent; even in the most prosperous state, Punjab, it declined
by as much as 20 percent. It is this decline, which increased poverty and
pushed people to the brink of starvation, that formed the backdrop of the
Bengal famine. In a situation where the people’s survival ability had been
severely eroded, the additional burden of war expenditure literally proved to
be the last straw.
    The food policy of the government in the post-Independence period
emerged out of this experience. While no radical land reforms were carried
out, resulting in the productive potential of Indian agriculture not being fully
reaIised a plethora of measures ranging from public investment in irrigation
to the spread of extension services and the provision of cheap credit and
inputs ensured that agricultural production, especially foodgrain production,
kept fractionally ahead of population growth. * At the same time starting
from the mid-sixties, which witnessed acute food-shortage, an elaborate
system of food procurement-cum-distribution was set up. It is true that the
growth in production was undertaken on the basis of an emerging tendency
towards capitalist production, superimposed on an unreformed and
exploitative agrarian structure. Also true is the fact that the public food
management system had only