East Indian Indentureship The Indians arriving in the New World called themselves Jahan or “People of the Ship,” referring to the ship that brought them across the oceans to the Americas. See chart below for East Indians arriving in South America starting in 1838 and in the Caribbean starting in 1845.
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In 1838, after the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean, the agriculture production in Guyana (formerly known as British Guiana and located on mainland South America) had fallen by 60 percent and plantations were being shut down at an alarming rate where plantation owners dreaded the loss f cheap labor after the enslaved Africans were freed and most of them chose to leave the plantation, heading for the villages and towns, refusing to work for their Plantation owners who had mistreated them.
Plantation owners in Guyana then turned to immigrants from England, Germany, Ireland and the British West Indies, starting the indentured system, in other words the “coolie system,” was on its way in Guyana, but these workers did not last on the plantation due to the extreme heat and strenuous working conditions. The British in Uttar Pradesh During the days of slavery, while the British were in Guyana growing sugar, they were super power in other places around the world and had already entered Uttar Pradesh, a North Indian province, back in 1765.
During British colonialism in India, thousands of Indians were unemployed as many of them were living under decaying economic conditions, in poverty, exploited by the ruling class and living under political repression and wanted to escape the repressive conditions. The British Recruiting Indians Laborers After the abolition of slavery, the British were looking for cheap labor to continue the work that many freed slaves now refus to do. The British were now recruiting ontract laborers from India through a Calcutta agency, to help save an ailing sugar industry in Guyana.
During this period, the British plantation owners also turned to Portugal, and later China in 1853, for contract laborers. These laborers came to Guyana under the indentured system, also know as the “coolie system” or cheap labor, where a person was encouraged to come to the New World to work for a number of years, to continue the work, which was once done by enslaved Africans. These workers were paid wages as paper chains were being substituted for iron chains, but were Just as binding.
The contract laborers were also given a passage to Guyana and a roof over their heads. After the person’s contract was up, he or she was free to leave, but, often, circumstances forced them to renew their contract and to continue on with the work they were doing. The first set of East Indians to set foot in the Americas On May 5th, 1838, after the abolishment of slavery in the British Caribbean, the first group of East Indians set foot in the Americas arriving on the Whitby, a British ship, where 244 Indians set foot in Guyana. The Journey to the New World begun on
January 13th 1838, from the Calcutta port with 249 Indians, and lasted 5 long months, traveling half way around the world, from the Indian Ocean, around Africa and then up into the Atlantic Ocean and then to the waters of Guyana. The long voyage across where 5 people had died and only 5 females came alive. Shortly after the arrival of the Whitby in Guyana, another ship known as the Hesperus, which left India on January 29th 1838, arrived in Guyana with another 165 Indians, where only 6 females came alive and 13 Indians died at sea.
Origin of the Indians In 1838, thousands of Indians continued to leave their Motherland, families and omes behind as they headed to the New World to escape poverty, unemployment and decaying conditions. Most of the Indian immigrants arriving in Guyana were poor country folks between the ages of 10 and 30 and came from Uttar Pradesh, which is located in the northern region of India and stretches into the Himalayas Mountains.
Batches of Indians also came from Bihar, Karachi, Lahore, Punjab, Hyderabad, the Deccan, Srinagar in Kashmir, Peshawar, Mardan and Afghanistan. These people from the northern regions of the sub-continent boarded the ships at the Calcutta depot. Years later, a depot in Madras was set up and a sizeable Indian minority also came from the Tamil and Telugu-speaking regions of Southern India.
Indian indentured laborers to South America and The Caribbean took place between 1838 – 1917 Country Period of immigration Number of Indians arrived during indentureship Guyana (formerly British Guiana) located in South America 1838-1917 238,909 Trinidad & Tobago 1845-1917 143,939 Guadeloupe 1854-1885 42,326 Jamaica 1845-1885 36,412 Suriname (also known as Dutch Guiana, located in South America 1872-1916 34,000 Martinique 1854-1889 25,509 French Guiana, located in South America 12,165 St.
Lucia 1858-1895 4,354 Grenada 1856-1885 3,200 1861-1880 2,472 Belize (formerly British Honduras) located in Central America around 1860’s In 1882, it was reported that 382 Indians born in India lived in Belize St. Kitts around 1860’s A small number Living conditions on the Plantation was harsh The living conditions for the Indians on the sugar plantation were appalling and workers were compelled to work 12 hours a day, whether it rained, or shined or whether they were sick.
The Indians lived in barrack type buildings, 100 feet long and ivided into 10 feet long sections where there was an extra 6 feet added on to the width to put a kitchen area. One family was crammed into this small area. There were also loggies which were approximately 10 feet long.
For many, the sun was extremely hot, especially for the ones who came from places like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab where it snows in some regions during the winter and has altitudes that varies from 100 to over 3000 meters above sea level- Guyana is below sea level, at the equator and hot throughout the entire year. The Indians adjusted to their new environment and endured the strenuous conditions. When the Indians first arrived they were treated like slaves Although slavery was abolished, plantation owners still had the mentality of slavery and mistreated the Indians.
In 1838, when the Indians first arrive, and were forced to live under the harsh conditions, a number of Indians had escape across the rivers and into the woods. As they escaped, they were caught and flogged and some were found dead. There were no doctors to help them so they found their own medicine. They rubbed salted pickle on their backs to fght infectious diseases and to heal the wounds from the whips.