Academics contest Amartya Sen's "facts" on famine

The following references would, independently, refute his statements on frequency of non-FAD famines:

O. Goswami 'The Bengal Famine of 1943: Re-examining the Data' in, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol 27, No. 4, 1990.

This paper takes the data in Sen's paper and other sources and, after a lot of calculations comes to the same conclusion as I did on the size of the Bengal crop in 1943 compared to 1941. This, by itself, is enough to invalidate Sen's causal model. Some of the data used is different to mine, and to this extent it provides an independent test rather than just a confirmation. Sen did see a draft of the paper, presumably in 1988. Clearly this confirms that Sen misstated the facts originally, and the misstatement is repeated each time his book is sold.

The other papers examine Sen's estimate of the mortality during the famine.

T. Dyson and A. Maharatna 'Excess mortality during the Great Bengal Famine: A Re-evaluation' in, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol 28, No. 3, 1991.

T. Dyson 'On the Demography of South Asian Famines, Part II' in Population Studies, Vol 45, No. 2, July 1991.

The first is highly critical of Sen's data and the way he dealt with the data but not his broad methodology, and suggest that he made a 50% overstatement of the true figures. The second shows that other aspects of Sen's demographic analysis of 43-44 are wrong too. For the purposes of my analysis I stated that the deaths appeared to be between 2 million and 4 million, but I used Sen's estimate, as I did not want to get sidetracked into this complex statistical area, where we will never know the truth.

Basu (1984 p295) "Food Policy and the analysis of famine" Indian Journal of Economics 64 254: 289-301concludes that for the Bangladesh crisis 'the argument of Sen that the total availability of food in the year of the famine was not far from normal cannot be true.'. See also Dipak Basu "Sen's analysis of famine: a critique" The Journal of Development Studies 22:3 April 1986. For more detailed analysis e-mail him at Dipak Basu E-mail Address:

Kumar (1990, p184) writes of Wollo that 'Insofar as a binding transport limitation accentuated the chronic food shortages caused by the drought in the province, then food availability decline has to figure as the major explanatory factor in the famine.' Kumar, B.G. (1990) 'Ethiopian Famines 1973-1985; a case study' in J Dreze and A. Sen (eds) The Political Economy of Hunger 2 Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Dyson concludes '. . while they are far from being complete explanations, FADS were probably involved in all five of Sen's famines.' Dyson, T. (1996) Population and food: global trends and future prospects, Routledge, London and New York. This destroys the basis of all Sen's work on famine.

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