After the slaves were freed, the plantation owners were desperate for new sources of labor. In 1839 the British government began a program of recruiting Indian laborer’s (or cool!es) in Calcutta to be sent to Trinidad and British Guiana, now Guyana.
They bound themselves to work as indentured laborers for a set number of years on the plantations. The mostly Hindu and Muslim laborers were compelled to work 7 and a half hours a day, six days a week for 3 years, receiving about 13 cents a day for their work. At first, half of the recruits were women but, in 1840, the proportion was reduced to a third of the number of men.
In 1844, the period of indenture was extended to five years with a guarantee that, if they wished, they would get a free passage home at the end of their service. In 1853 the law was again amended to allow the indentured laborer’s to re-indenture themselves for a second five-year term or, if they wished, to commute any portion of their contract by repayment of a proportionate part of their indenture fee.
Many Indian immigrants who had completed their indentureship also established cocoa estates, most notable of them being ANDRU Gokool Meah, a Kashmiri-born immigrant who went on to the become one of the wealthiest men in Trinidad and Tobago. The Indian community has steadily prospered and grown until now it makes up about 41% of the population of the nation (the largest ethnic group by about 1%).
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