The Indian famine of 1896–1897 was a famine that began in Bundelkhand, India, early in 1896 and spread to many parts of the country, including the United Provinces, the Central Provinces and Berar, Bihar, parts of the Bombay and Madras presidencies, and parts of the Punjab; in addition, the princely states of Rajputana, Central India Agency, and Hyderabad were affected.
All in all, during the two years, the famine affected an area of 307,000 square miles (800,000 km2) and a population of 69.5 million.
Although relief was offered throughout the famine-stricken regions in accordance with the Provisional Famine Code of 1883, the mortality, both from starvation and accompanying epidemics, was very high: approximately one million people are thought to have died.
The summer monsoon rains of 1897, however, were abundant, as was the following harvest which ended the famine in Autumn 1897. However, the rains, which were particularly heavy in some regions set off a malaria epidemic which killed many people; soon thereafter, an epidemic of the bubonic plague began in the Bombay Presidency, which although not very lethal during the famine year, would, in the next decade, become more virulent and spread to the rest of India.
Even so, the mortality resulting from the famine was great; it is thought that in the British territory alone, between 750,000 and 1 million people died of starvation.
Although the famine relief was reasonably effective in the United Provinces, it failed in the Central Provinces, especially among tribal groups, who were reluctant to perform labour in public works to earn food rations, and who, according to Famine Code guidelines, did not qualify for “charitable relief”.