The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


HYDE PARK, Sunday—I am writing a second column on the advisability of sending food to India because I am getting many letters stressing our obligation to answer a humanitarian appeal.

I notice that one columnist blames the State Department for asking for this shipment at the present time. He feels it should be granted, but that Congress, quite understandably, is not feeling particularly kindly toward India in view of her unwillingness to pronounce China an aggressor, and therefore the request should be made at a more opportune time!

It must not be overlooked, however, that this is the first official government request for aid that has been made by India. Prime Minister Nehru, when he was here, stated the need for grain to Secretary Acheson; but this time it has come through their ambassador and from the government officially, and it was Mrs. Pandit who gave out a news release on the request. Since our State Department was in favor of granting the request, it could do no less than to ask Congress immediately to pass on it.

I think we must consider that our legislators are able to see beyond the temporary annoyance of some of their constituents who are probably writing them that there is no reason for giving aid and sustenance to anyone who votes against you in the U.N. This would be a very short-sighted view to take and would give all the other peoples of Asia the impression that we were not really interested in the well-being of people, but only in giving where we could obtain returns. Those returns would be political or economic. By refusing wheat to India now we will strengthen the belief in Asia that our real interest is an imperial policy of control and that our humanitarian protestations are hollow words.

People might ask whether the food India needs is not available nearer by. The floods in the Punjab in the summer of 1950, however, have seriously impaired Pakistan's available food supply. She may even have to import food for her own population. The present situation in India in fact is not caused by lack of effort on the part of her government to improve agricultural methods, but to a series of natural calamities. In the early part of 1950 India was successful in cutting down on imports of food. But the Assam earthquake, unprecedented floods in some parts of the country and terrific drought in other parts, followed by a visitation of locusts, have completely disrupted the food situation, so that she must now import six million tons of food in 1951 to keep up the low ration of nine ounces per person per day—which is only 900 calories.

India has made plans to buy four million tons during 1951, some of it from the U.S. and Canada. She will have to pay for what she buys here in dollars during 1951, if she can buy this wheat at the international wheat agreement price. She will not have enough dollars to pay for the additional two million tons which she must have, and that is why the State Department has backed her appeal to the U.S. for these two million tons.

We must remember that the struggle against Communism can not be won by military strength alone, and this is one of the opportunities where we can make an appeal to the hearts and minds of men which will strengthen democracy.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 5, 1951

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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