Sound Off August 09, 99

Sound-Off: Indian Indentured Labourers

Santa Cruz:
I heard a very thought provoking statement on Sound Off recently, that is the indentured labors and I guess it is those from India he meant, because Portuguese and Chinese was also indentured before. These indentured laborers had a choice to go back to India or stay. Where as the freed slaves had no such choice. Now considering their reaction to the cane fields after emancipation, I wandered what the ex-slaves would have done if in fact they had that choice to go back to Africa? I stood in my shoes and wondered if all the Indians had return to India, as some seem to wish, where would I be today and all those mixed Trinbagoians, would they be around? But more so, what and how would my beloved country, Trinidad and Tobago, be today without Indians, better or worst? Food for thought."

I believe it was a statement I made before that prompted this response. I was responding to some callers who were making the claim that "African people were lazy and that is the reason East Indians were brought here as indentured servants".

It is obvious this caller is either ignorant of the history of Trinidad and Tobago or he is very dishonest. Santa Cruz's emotional response had to be constructed in an illusionary state.

His response does not deny the fact that the indentured laborers had a choice of either remaining in Trinidad or returning to India after the term of their indentureship. The option to return to Africa or remain in the colonies after emancipation was not available to African people.

The East Indian indentured servants were brought to Trinidad because the ex-slaves were refusing to work for low wages. Some of the ex-slaves were demonstrating tremendous entrepreneurial capabilities and they did not need the meager wages on the sugar cane plantations. They were also employing a lot of other 'ex-slaves'.

The plantation owners began discouraging trade between the ex-slaves and the trading ships. They felt threatened by the growing number of African estate owners and tradesmen as this was preventing them from obtaining cheap labor. Some ex-slaves were prepared to work on the plantations but they wanted better wages and working conditions. It is in this climate that East Indian laborers were brought to Trinidad.

I can also assure you that if East Indian laborers did not come to Trinidad when they did, they would have found themselves here anyhow, taking into consideration what was, and still is happening in India.

Responding to all the assertions in his contribution is unnecessary. He will have to explain what you meant by the statement / question; "NOW CONSIDERING THEIR REACTION TO THE CANE FIELD AFTER EMANCIPATION, I WONDERED WHAT THE EX-SLAVES WOULD HAVE DONE IF IN FACT THEY HAD THE CHOICE TO GO BACK TO AFRICA?"

His later statement, "I stood in my shoes and wondered" tells me he has a lot of free time. May I recommended some good books that will save him from wondering to far.


CAPITALISM & SLAVERY by Dr. Eric Williams.

ATILLA'S KAISO a short history of Trinidad calypso by Raymond Quevedo.


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