Indian Indenture System

Indenture literally means “a contract binding one party into the service of another for a specified term”. During the British Era, a new kind of slavery started in the early 19th century, in which Indians were exported to various parts of the world as ‘forced’ laborers.

The Slavery ended in 1833 and this news kind of slavery started from that year and continued till 1920 when thousands of Indians were transported to various colonies of European powers to provide labor. Most of the labor was used for sugar plantations.

  • The system started in 1826 when the Government of the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion, laid down terms for the introduction on Indian laborers to this colony.
  • Every person was required to appear before a magistrate and declare that he was going voluntarily. Thus the person would enter into a 5 year contract and would be given 8 rupees monthly plus ration.

So, the first laborers started moving from Pondicherry and Karaikal which were under the French.

From 1826 to 1830 more than 3 thousand Indian laborers were transported from Pondicherry and Karaikal to Reunion. Then there was an attempt to send Indian Laborers to Mauritius, in 1829, but this attempt was unsuccessful. But after 1834, Indian labor export to Mauritius got pace.

From 1833 to 1920 around 12 Lakh Indians were sent to work in different parts of the world. Out of them maximum 4.53 Lakh were sent to Mauritius, followed by 2.39 Lakh to British Guiana, 1. 44 Lakh to Trinidad and 1.52 Lakh to South Africa.

  • On January 11, 2011, a Memorial plaque in honor of Indian Indentured Laborers was unveiled at Kidderpore Dock, Kolkata Port , which is the first ever Memorial established in India in honor of Indian Indentured Laborers that travelled from India in the 19th & 20th centuries.

The Kolkata Memorial recognizes and honors the indomitable spirit and heroism of all Indians who left the shores of their motherland from 1833 to 1920 to embark long and hazardous journeys to faraway lands and begin a new life there.