The contracts did not affect the salaries of the “apprentices”


By Stephen Kangal
June 14, 2022

The Indians were recruited by the “arkatias” and transported to work in the cane fields of Caroni in Trinidad because after a period of careful observation and analysis by the British occupiers and on the basis of their experience in the sugar cultivation in India (UP and Bihar) and taking into account the extreme famine of the 1850s, it was decided that, perhaps with the guidance of the established East India Company, the Indians were going to be the type of most efficient and economical unskilled labor to increase sugar production and achieve increasing yields.

It was a business decision made by the growers.

History has proven that the planters were correct in their assessment of labor which, once freed, Africans were not really the agricultural type. That they would gravitate towards urban areas in search of skills development and better paying and cheaper jobs in sugar, which would lead to a severe labor shortage in the Caribbean sugar industry.

Indians from 1838 to 1917 filled the resulting labor shortage. They maintained the revitalized sugar industry and the expansion of sugar production, particularly when Tate and Lyle took over the industry in Jamaica, Trinidad and Belize in 1939. In Trinidad, total sugar production at Tate and Lyle’s Caroni Ltd and Trinidad Sugar Estates’ Orange Grove reached 200,000 tonnes. in the 1960s.

The most efficient and best economic, managerial and human resources decision ever made by the Caribbean sugar plantocracy to meet the challenges of a failing/declining sugar industry was to import indentured laborers Indians beginning after emancipation around 1838 in Guyana and in 1845 in Trinidad. .

The personality, beliefs and character of the Indian laborers made them the most suitable for increasing sugar cultivation as they were quite docile and accepted the status quo under the prevailing working conditions. They also had a vision that they would amass enough capital to return as “moguls” to India or buy land in Trinidad and plant their own cane as cane growers as extended families with lots of family labor.

Once the “apprenticeship” was completed, planters anticipated in the late 1830s that “apprentices” would gravitate to urban centers for skills development, access to education, and service sector jobs as well than in well-paid cocoa production.

These “apprentices” who remained in the sugar industry worked in the sugar factories, they dominated the private security forces (estate police), the private sugar company’s light railways, the driving of vehicles, the blacksmiths and assumed clerical jobs in estate/factory offices due to their higher educational status. Contracts didn’t work there.

This is the stark depoliticized truth to be faced and we need to demystify from our minds that the ‘apprentices’ were going to continue to work in the cultivation and harvesting of sugar where contracts were almost entirely concentrated in employment.


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