A drought had left the people in dire straights. They had not accumulated enough money to pay rent on their farmland, and they tried to sell what they could to make it. In the end, even the rent collector was in dire straights because of the landlords.
This is a common theme in colonial settings. Colonists are generally unsympathetic to the plight of the indigenous population. As a result, people suffer. It was no different in colonial India.
Economic forces kept the poor poor. In times of distress, people had nowhere to turn because the colonial government was not cornered about public well-fare. They were only concerned about the well-fare of their real property and what it could produce for them. It was a case of usury in the extreme.
The British were unsympathetic to the Indian people. As such, the People tried to help one another as much as possible, but in many ways, they made matters worse for everyone. Nevertheless, one may never blame the subjugated for wanting to survive even at the hands of their oppressors. Likewise, one may never blame the subjugated for raising up against injustice whatever the odds.