“There have been no major famines since independence,” said Mishra. “And so we started our research thinking the famines would have been caused by drought due to factors such as lack of irrigation.”

They found that five of the famines were largely caused by droughts, but in 1943, at the height of the Bengal famine, rain levels were above average, according to the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“The Bengal famine of 1943 was completely because of policy failure,” Mishra said.

Policy lapses such as prioritizing distribution of vital supplies to the military, stopping rice imports and not declaring that it was actually a famine were among the factors that led to the magnitude of the tragedy, he added.