CONTINUING EFFORTS TO REVIVE INDIAN IMMIGRATION
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The three-man delegation from India arrived in British Guiana in February 1922. It comprised of Dewan Pillai, Deputy President of the Madras Legislative Assembly, Venketesh Tivary of the Servants of India Society, and an Englishman, G. F. Keatinge, who was Director of Agriculture of Bombay.
During their initial discussions, the Governor, Sir Wilfred Collet, informed the committee that the scheme proposed by Nunan and Luckhoo in India was not authorised by the British Guiana Government. However, both Nunan and Luckhoo firmly disputed this, and insisted to the Indian delegation that they were indeed authorised to make proposals for the Government. In the end, a new scheme, with much fewer benefits than were made in the Nunan-Luckhoo plan, was proposed by the Governor to the delegation.
The committee, after visiting a number of sugar plantations and meeting with Indian workers and professionals, departed in April 1922 for India and shortly after presented a report to the Indian Legislative Council. The report was not unanimous since the two Indian members expressed no support for any further movement of people from India to British Guiana on account of the falling export price of sugar They felt that with such an existing situation would not promote improved living conditions for new Indian settlers. On the other hand, Keatinge stated that if there was not a restart of Indian immigration, the labour supply would be seriously affected and this could cause some sugar plantation to close down, thus affecting the livelihood of the Indians in British Guiana.
The sugar planters in British Guiana felt that this report was very damaging to their hopes of importing a new wave of labourers from India. By 1923, the price of sugar began to improve, and in May 1923, the Sugar Planters Association, alarmed at the shortage of workers when sugar export prices were rising, unanimously gave support to the Nunan-Luchhoo scheme. The Association wrote to the new Governor, Sir Graeme Thompson, asking for the introduction of 1500 families from India under the terms put forward by Nunan and Luckhoo.
In an effort to win support, they encouraged the Government to send Nunan and Luckhoo again to India in early 1924 to explain to Indian leaders the positive sides of emigration to British Guiana . For this mission, Nunan and Luckhoo were joined by two members of the British Guiana East Indian Association, Mahedoe Panday and Caramat Ally McDoom, and together they were able to get the Indian Government to re-examine the situation in British Guiana and to consider reopening migration. (The EIA was formed eight years before in Berbice by Joseph Ruhoman). The delegation had the backing of the Negro Progress Convention (NPC), founded in 1921 by E. F. Fredericks, a lawyer from Buxton. The NPC stated that it would support the re-opening of immigration from India providing that immigration from Africa was also opened up.
The British Guiana delegation visited Bombay and Madras during the initial stage of their mission. Strongest opposition to emigration was expressed in Madras where the media spread misinformation and exaggerated problems existing in British Guiana. Nunan met on 22 and 24 January in Delhi with the Viceroy who expressed support for the emigration scheme. Both Nunan and Luckhoo also met with the special Committee of the Legislative Council.
On 8 April, news of the killing of 13 persons, most of whom were Indian sugar workers, five days before at Ruimveldt reached India and this helped to spur the anti-emigration advocates to rally more opposition to the emigration scheme. However, by then the special Committee had already agreed to send a Government representative to British Guiana to again examine the level of progress of Indians.
In response to the visit of this delegation, the Indian Government in October 1925 sent Kunwar Maharaj Singh, a Deputy Commissioner in the United Provinces, to examine the economic and political conditions of the Indians in British Guiana. In describing the economic and political conditions of the Indians in British Guiana, he stated that:
1. Educational and medical facilities in British Guiana were superior to those in rural India.
2. There were no caste restrictions or purdah, and that Indians in British Guiana had a somewhat higher standard of living than those living in rural India.
3. There were no political or economic inequalities such as existed, for instance, in South Africa, no segregation, and no restrictions against the acquisition of land.
4. The general prosperity was below the level reached in Mauritius, where Indians owned over 40 percent of the sugar cultivation, or as in Trinidad, where 100,000 acres of land were in the hands of Indian proprietors. This difference was caused by the natural difficulties of the coastlands, involving considerable expenditure on sea defence, drainage and irrigation as well as the lack of cooperative effort.
5. Nevertheless, the presence of many Indian landowners, substantial cultivators, legal and medical practitioners, merchants, shopkeepers and Government servants, showed that the community was making progress which was due to the qualities of industry and thrift shown by the Indians.
Singh's report was not supportive of a labour scheme, even though he felt that Indians had made progress. He was not opposed to emigration for settlement and he proposed an experiment involving the settlement of 500 Indian families (amounting to roughly 1500 persons) in British Guiana.
In March 1926, the Governor of British Guiana was informed by telegram by the Viceroy of India that limited migration of indentured labourers was approved on certain strict conditions, a list of which was forwarded at the same time. The sugar planters desperately needed additional labour on their plantations, and they quicky accepted the conditions. With their encouragement, the draft conditions were rapidly approved by the British Guiana legislature. The Indian Government was informed of the approval of the list of conditions, and the Indian Imperial Council finally approved the emigration proposals late in the same month.
Only 173 Indians (amounting to about 50 families) arrived in British Guiana under this new scheme in 1926. During the following year, the British Guiana Government found that the cost of transportation was too high, and this did not encourage further transport of settlers from India. Emigration from India officially ended in 1928.