Colonial Emigration


During the days of the coolie trade, the British kept records of indentured workers and their travels in official diaries. Mrs Leela Gujadhur Sarup, historian and researcher, pulled out many such records from archives in India, and compiled books like the one above. Here’s an excerpt from pages 301 and 302 of the book that looks at various rules that emigrants need to follow
Colonial Emigration

19th-20th Century



Vol. 9

Leela Gujadhur Sarup

Every employer to whom any immigrant shall on arrival in this Colony be inden­tured shall be charged with the payment to Her Majesty, her heirs and successors of the sum of fifteen pounds sterling as fees on the indenture of such immigrant of which sum one-fifth part shall be paid previously to the execution of the certificate of indenture or the endorsement by the Agent General of Immigration of the contract of service of any such immigrant and a like fifth part shall be paid annually at the commencement of the second year and every subsequent year of such indenture and all such payments shall be made although such immigrant shall have died or become incapable of work or shall be absent from the plantation in respect of which he shall have been indentured.

Provided always that when the indenture of any such immigrant shall have been cancelled or such immigrant shall before the expiration of his term of service obtain from the Agent General of Immigration a certificate of industrial residence such employer shall be discharged from any further payment in respect of such immigrant.

All indenture fees that may become due and payable shall be paid by the employer of any indentured immigrant to the Receiver General on the day on which such fees shall become due and payable and every employer or his agent shall make out and deliver to the Receiver General a return or list in duplicate in form B of schedule hereto annexed showing the name of the plantation and the names and distinguishing numbers of the immigrants in respect whereof any such fees of indenture shall be payable and the amount of the indenture fee payable on such immigrants respectively and on the payment of any such fees as hereinbefore directed, the Receiver General shall at the foot of every such return certify the payment of such fees and deliver one of such lists to the person paying such fees and shall deliver the other of such lists to the Agent General of Immigration.

The employer shall upon the allotment or indenture to him of any immigrant assign to such immigrant a suitable dwelling ­­upon the plantation and shall at all times keep such dwelling in sufficient repair and the roof of the same watertight and shall keep the yard and grounds for a sufficient space round about such dwelling well drained and the drains clear and in good order and the yard and grounds free from brush and weeds and rubbish of every description.

No dwelling which in the opinion of the Agent General of Immigration is unfit for habitation shall be assigned to any indentured immigrant and no greater number of immigrants shall be assigned to any dwelling or separate apartment except with the special permission of the Agent General of Immigration than at the rate of one adult to every three hundred cubic feet of space or of three single men or of one man and one woman with not more than two children to every one apartment of not less than nine hundred cubic feet of space.

Every employer who shall fail to provide with a suitable dwelling any immigrant indentured to him or who shall in any respect neglect or refuse to comply with the provisions of this Ordinance or with the regulations thereby authorized in respect of the repair occupation arrangement and drainage of such dwelling shall on conviction at the complaint of any immigrant thereby aggrieved or of the Agent General of Immigration pay a fine not exceeding ten pounds.

Every indentured immigrant who shall keep his dwelling in so filthy or unwholesome a state as to be a nuisance, or injurious to health or who shall refuse or neglect within a reasonable time after a requisition by the manager to remove any such nuisance or substance which he may have caused or placed respectively in the immediate proximity of any other dwelling or who shall commit any nuisance in any stream or common thoroughfare of the plantation shall on conviction pay a fine not exceeding ten shillings or be imprisoned for any term not exceeding thirty days.

March 2012

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