EXHIBITION : ORIGINS: Creatie Tracks of Indian Diaspora
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INDENTURED WORLD > Indendutred Systems of labour Migration

When slavery was abolished in 1834, the freed Africans either opted not to work on the sugar plantations or asked for better living conditions. Coming out from centuries of slave experience, Africans did not have any collective bargaining power or organized leadership for raising their demands.

The demands of the freed Africans for basic wage structure and better living conditions were met with severe opposition from white colonial planters. To undermine the bargaining power of former slaves and to save the plantation economies from total collapse, European planters started searching for alternate cheap labour from different parts of the world.

Initially they imported poor labourers from the Portuguese island of Madeira and other parts of Europe, freed Africans from USA and Chinese from southern provinces. All these labourers were thrown into the same slave barracks once occupied by the African slaves, and had to perform the same tasks once done by the African slaves.  But none of these labourers could withstand the horrible working and living conditions of the plantations. In their effort to save the sugar plantations, which was the OIL of 19th century planters, planters finally found India as the major source of cheap labour.

An impoverished India after the First War of Independence, or Great Mutiny in 1857, became the perfect source of cheap labour for recruitment. A new system of contractual slavery termed "Indentured Labor Contract", was soon developed by the colonial administration to bring migrant laborers from the Indian subcontinent.

For nearly eighty years, between 1834 and until the abolition of indenturedship in 1917, the plantation economies in countries ranging from Sri Lanka in South Asia to Surinam (formerly Dutch Guiana) in South America imported hundreds of thousands of Indians as indentured labourers or "Coolies". The Indians who left under this notorious contract or GIRMITIA from the ports of Calcutta, Madras, Pondicherry and Karaikal were thrown to the wilderness of the NEW WORLD to generate wealth for European planters.

 


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