Due to ruthless atmospheric conditions, India experienced a devastating famine that left 6 to 12 million people dead. Stray incidents started popping up from every corner of the country; each day turned into dismay. British rule had gradually turned more merciless. Amongst all such commotion, a terrible bout of famine struck parts of South India in 1877. The losses that natives had to suffer had taken a whole lot of time for the English masters to put things into place like before. Although, there were still some clemency retained in selected Viceroy-Generals of the Raj, which came to vital use in times like these. And, one such example was Lord Lytton
In January, the Government of India appointed Sir Richard Temple (1826-1902) as Commissioner to Madras for the purpose of minimising the expenditures of the Madras Government. At the same time, relief measures for those suffering from the famine were also ensured by Temple. In August, the famine extended to other parts of South India like Madras, Central Provinces, United Provinces and even Punjab
, impacting a population of approximately thirty-six million Indians.
Between the period of 17th August to 27th September, Lord Lytton
toured Madras and Mysore to personally investigate the extent of the famine and to coordinate with the Duke of Buckingham (1823-1889), Governor of Madras, on relief measures.
In May 1878, Lord Lytton appointed a Famine Commission with Sir Richard Strachey (1817-1908) as President and Sir Charles A. Elliott (1835-1911) as Secretary. The Commission was charged to investigate the impact of the famine on vital statistics, to suggest the character of future relief programmes, to outline criteria for complimentary relief, to clarify the Government`s role in the supply and distribution of food and to project the expected benefit of railway and irrigation projects. A Famine Insurance Fund was developed which laid aside 1,000,000 pounds a year. A sum of 500,000 pounds was allocated to railway construction and other public works projects and 250,000 pounds to irrigational measures.
In July 1880, the Famine Commission issued its report determining the principles and practices to be employed during future famines. An estimated five to six million Indians died as a result of this horrific famine in South India and other adjoining states. These plans were to be brought into action during the Famine of 1896 with positive results.