What was indentured labour? How were they recruited? Explain the condition of indentured labourers who work in different parts of the world.
INDENTURED labour was a practice introduced by the British in the 19th century. Indentured labour was bondage labour under contract. The labourer works for an employer for a specific period of time. In the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of Indian and Chinese labourers went to work on plantations, in mines and in road and railway construction projects around the world.
- In India, indentured labourers were hired under contracts which promised return travel to India after they had worked for five years on their employer’s plantation.
- Recruitments were done by agents employed by the plantation owners and paid a small commission.
- Agents sometimes tempted these migrants by providing false information regarding their destination, modes of travel and nature of work and living and working conditions, destination. Sometimes agents even forcibly abducted less willing workers.
Condition of Indentured Labourers:
- On arrival at plantation, labourers found condition to be different Torn what they had imagined, living and working conditions were hard and there were very few legal rights.
- But workers discovered their own way of surviving many of them escaped into the forest, though if caught they would face rigorous punishment.
- Others developed new forms of individual and collective self expression, blending different cultural forms. In Trinidad, the annual Muharram procession was transformed into a riotous carnival called ‘Hosay’ in which workers of all races and religions joined the protest. ‘Rastafarianism’ and ‘Chutney Music’ popular in the Caribbean both were developed post the indenture experience.
Most indentured labourers gradually found that their economic and social positions were not inferior than their own country.