Leela Gujadhur Sarup

Indentured workers sail from Demerara to Calcutta


Leela Gujadhur Sarup is a historical researcher and author on colonial emigration. Her works are based on hard to find documents as they originally appeared in the records of the British Empire. We reproduce, with permission, an extract of an account that involves the return of indentured workers from Demerara to Calcutta, and how they had to pay more for the return trip

From: Captain C. Eales, 
Protector of Emigrants at the
Port of Calcutta , 

To: The Hon’ble A. Eden, 
Officiating Secretary to the 
Government of Bengal,
Dated the 1st September 1862.

I have the honor to forward, for the information of Government copies of correspondence referring to the embarkation at Demerara of a party of seven Coolie Emigrants, six of whom arrived at Calcutta on the 22nd ultimo, via Liverpool, per Ship “Gitana”, the seventh died during the Vessel’s stay at that Port. 

Colonial Emigration 19th-20th Century
Proceedings 1863 – 1869 Vol. 4

2. Having asserted from the Master that no Nominal Roll or other official papers relating to these people had accompanied them, as they embarked as private passengers on their own account, I called upon Mr. Marriott, the Emigration Agent for the Colony, for information on the subject, and his reply is hereto appended.

3. As it appears evident from the manner in which these Coolies have been suffered to leave Demerara, that the Emigration Officers of the Colony considered all responsibility in reference to them had ceased, and that they were no longer entitled to adequate protection from Government, I deem it my duty to bring the matter to the notice of His Honor the Lieutenant–Governor, as, I submit, it is in the highest degree detrimental to the interests of Coolie Emigrants returning to India often with large sums of money, that they should be thus left entirely to their own resources at a moment when the Agency and Authority of the Colonial Government is essentially necessary to secure them against fraud and possible loss and bad treatment on the voyage.

4. If straggling bands of Emigrants, after fulfilling their engagements to the Colony, are to the left free to make their own private bargains with Ship Captains, unaided and unrecognised by the Colonial Government, there is every reason to apprehend that the objectionable practice will soon become general as regards entire shipments of laborers, as Captain Bennett informs me that a much larger party intended to have returned in the “Gitana” could they have settled their affairs in time.

5. Again, in the absence of any official intimation of the departure of Indian Laborers from the different Colonies, this Office is deprived of the ordinary means of keeping correct account of the number returning to this country, and our records become valueless.

6. The amount of money savings amassed by these people is about Rupees 5,235, almost the whole of which has been remitted to the Collectors of the Districts in which they severally reside. Rupees 393-12, pertaining to the Estate of Boijonauth, deceased, have been deposited in the Bank of Bengal, and the usual Descriptive Roll is in course of preparation.

7. The Coolies, fortunately in this instance, have been under the care of Captain Bennett, an experienced person favourably known, in the Emigration Service, who appears to have treated them properly on board. They complained, however, that in addition to the enhanced rate of passage money, 200, upwards of £ 40 sterling, which they were individually compelled to pay owing to no direct means of transport being available to India, they had to defray the cost of house rent in Liverpool whilst awaiting the ship’s stay at that Port.

October 2010

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