Caribbean Civilisation: Indian Immigration Scheme
In the immediate post emancipation era, at a time when planters in the British colonies in the west indies complained of a labour shortage, John Gladstone, a ruthless planter in Guiana took steps to import Indian labour. In 1838, the Gladstone experiment commenced. Gladstone imported on the Hesperus and the Whitby 244 and 165 souls respectively. This movement of labour was facilitated by a migratory phenomenon where Indian migrants were going to places such as the Pacific, Assam, East Africa, South Africa, Mauritius, Indonesia and of course the West Indies. It has been rumored in the historical record according to Selwyn Carrington that the idea of Indian immigration was discussed since 1810 and that some people were secretly brought before 1838 and secretly returned. However, in the case of the Gladstone experiment, we see a false start to Indian immigration in the British WI. The Indian workers who went to Guiana were treated as slaves. They were overworked, starved, flogged. Some escaped by running away, only to be found dead in forested areas. IT was because of the brutality of this experiment that the British government brought an end to imports.
After Britain lost her 13 colonies in the american revolution of 1776-1783, Britain moved to India to focus on India as the second wave of expansion. When Britain stared to establish colonial rule in India, she added millions of people of varying cultures and religions to her empire. While Britain was occupying India, as an imperialist force, the Indian people suffered a number of disabillites. It as these disabillites that acted as a push factor in the process of migration. These disabillites included: 1) Meager wages
- indebtedness to money lenders
- Problems to acquire land
- Destitution in agriculture
- Dislocation as a result of imperialism
- Planned famine (for exploitation)
In addition to the above, the Sepoy rebellion of 1857 which was ruthlessly put down caused a bad crop and as a result, high prices. With meager wages, the real purchasing power of money fell.
Collectively, these push factors contributed to levels of willingness among those who would eventually come to the WI. The Indian indenture ship SCHEME resumed in 1845.
Three broad groups who came:
From Calcutta, Bihar, Orissa, Central Provinces, Uttar Pradesh. These are areas broadly related to the Ganges plain. People also left via the Bay of Bengal.
In 1845, Trinidad received 231 Indian workers who sailed on the 16th of February and landed at Nelson Island on May 30th of 1845 aboard the Fath al Razak. Between 1845 and 1869, 34440 immigrants came to Trinidad and between 1870 to 1900, 71984 came to Trinidad. For the entire period, 1845 to 1917 a total of 143939 people came. Correspondingly, for Guiana, there was 244000. Therefore Guiana received the vast majority of people. Between 1870 and 1900, thereabout the total number of people who were eligible to return, 15211 did. this accounted for 21.2%. The indentureship contract was along contractual obligation which were sanctioned by criminal law. The Indian worker was assigned to a particular estate and could not leave that estate. The Indian worker could not refuse to do the work assigned nor could the Indian worker demand higher wages. if the Indian worker breached any of these obligations, then the immigration laws could be applied to address the breach. In the beginning, the Indian workers were reluctant to sign contracts.
An ordinance in 1862 created the need for workers to sign contracts of 5 years. At the end of a 5 year period, the worker was not entitled to a free passage back to India. The worker was granted a certificate of industrial residence, a sort of free paper. Even with this certificate, the worker was not entirely free as other members of the population. The worker was encouraged to re indenture for another 5 years and it was after 10 years of indentureship when that worker was eligible for a free passage to India. In 1895, the ruthlessness of the system made it necessary for the worker to pay a proportion of the return passage.
Another aspect of the contract showed that the worker was guaranteed 280 days per anum of work, 5 days out of crop and 6 days during crop time. An 1872 ordinance provided a wage of 25 cents for able bodied workers and 16 cents for less per day. We also note that work was divided as task as well as day work. task was the amount of work an able bodied person could have done in 7 hours. Day work was work done over a period of 9 hour. During crop time, 9 hours could have stretched to 12 hours. Those who worked in the mills or the factory also worked for much longer hours but with better pay. ( enslaved no wage, indentured got wage, enslaved population had no rights, slavery was also for life).
Indian workers were also sent to places such as Jamaica, Grenada, and so on in the british WI. They were also sent to the French colonies. In the British colonies, it is possible to speak pisitively about this system by the early 1870's. howver after that period, the idea of importing inidan labourers become political.
The indian population who came with a significant memory of their culture, this was also supported by their dialect. Some people spoke hindi, urdu (hindus- muslims). With such traditions, the indian population was soundly anchored back in their motherland. Women at the point of being transported to the WI, formed alliances aboard the ships in order to be protected from predators on the ship. One the plantations, the few women who came were at risk. Those who were mothers or fit enough to work in the feilds arose very early in teh morning in order to cook the foodthat the men would eat ( as well as childrenw here necessary). In many instances, the children who did not work on the field were left behind. The conditions under which the pople were accomodated were desperate and poor. We note some structures appeared to be barrack style facillities with missing floorings divided in units of roughly 10x12 with a small pattio for cooking. This means that privacy was an issue. The literature notes that ome young women were molested when visitors came to overnight at their homes. Moreover, the scarcity of women also created significant competition amongst suitors. Therefore fidelity was an issue. Traditions that wnet in a particular directionin india went in the opposite direction in this region. For example, normally the father of the bride pays the dowry but in roles had revered wherein the dowry had ot be apyed by the men.
There was also after marriage a high level of adultery. And at least 84 women of this country became victims of the machete.