asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will make a further statement respecting the food situation in India; whether the prices of primary foods are still 10 and more times their pre-war level; whether rice is in substantially greater supply; and what further steps have been taken to meet the shortage of foodstuffs?
The latest reports from India are that the wheat just reaped is a bumper crop, and the other spring crops are good. The crop is moving slowly to the market and prices are still high. The rice situation still causes anxiety and must continue to do so so long as the Burma crop is lost to us. The chief concern at present is for Bengal and especially Calcutta, where the price of rice is shown as more than eight times pre-war, though this is not true of India generally. The Government of India have taken into their own charge the adjustment of supplies between surplus and deficiency areas throughout the country, divided into six regions, each under a Central Government Commissioner, and each comprising several "food provinces."
As the position is alarming, and famine conditions in many areas are very acute, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to see that all possible steps are taken to provide food for these people?
The Government of India are doing all in their power.
Are not some middlemen hoarding large quantities of rice and grain?
Yes, probably hoarding is at the bottom of the difficulty.
Are steps being taken to control prices?
The control of prices is very difficult in India.
Surely something can be done to bring the price down from the level of 10 times more than it was before the war.
Every attempt is being made to bring it down.