The Migration of Indians to Guiana and Surinam


By Ananda Dulal Sarkar, published 1st March 1997

While migration from Europe to North America and elsewhere is well known, that from India is less familiar to Western readers. Ananda Dulal Sarkar provides an account of Indian migrants to the former British and Dutch Guianas. Within India, particularly during British rule, young and able-bodied males migrated hundreds of miles from their villages in search of paid employment. Typical destinations were the tea plantations in Assam and the jute mills in Bengal. The planters and mill owners welcomed the former villagers because they were compliant and cheap. The migrants did not have any alternative because they were often fleeing from oppressive landlords or merciless moneylenders. If there was famine, whole villages migrated to the nearest city, many perishing during their journey and after. There were also those who had small plots of agricultural land but who were forced, for example, due to draught to seek employment in the mills and save all the money they could to send home. They could hope to see their family once in a year during their annual holidays. As the volume of migrants increased, recruiting agencies began to spring up.

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