The long shadow of famine

Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS

Naomi HossainNaomi Hossain

Gobindalal Das was a young journalist when in 1974 he watched a passenger jump out of a train at the northern Bangladesh town of Gaibandha and vomit on the platform. What he saw next has stayed with him forever: another man ran up to where the passenger stood vomiting and ate it. He was starving. The story Das wrote for his newspaper Dainik Bangla went, we would now say, viral, and the world heard of the famine that killed up to 1.5 million people in the new nation of Bangladesh.

This story is well known in Bangladesh, but I first heard it from the author himself when we met at the Gaibandha Press Club in October. Das compresses decades of reporting on poverty and hunger into insightful commentary on what has changed here. The famine is never far from his mind. Some say it still casts its shadow…

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