WRAP_THESIS_Shiwcharan_199000035 by keralaguest


									                                              Table 2.14
         Useof empoldered, prime agricultural land on sugar estates,
                         1922/1923  -1928/1929

      Year                    Sugar-cane                      Rice                  Uncultivaled*

      1922                       59,032                      9,130                      86,279
      1923                       55,121                      9,145                      89,005
      1928                       57,618                      9,731                      77,376
      1929                       57,705                      8,831                      76,816

      *Under 2,000 acresper annum were used by resident labourers for the cultivation of vegetables

             SOURCES: C. O. 114/187. Report of the Lands and Mines Department, 1923; CO. 114/207. Report
             of the Lands and Mines Department. 1929.

             it mustbeobviousthatif a tide of immigrationsetsin to British Guiana,no Government
        can allow large acresof fertile land to be lockedup indefinitely, nor allow the ownersof
        suchlandsto profit enormouslyby unearned      increments.  The Government alwaysin
        reservethe weaponof taxation,and possiblythat also of expropriation.... It is greatlyto
        the interests the sugarplantersthat settlements
                      of                                  shouldbe installedin closeproximity to
        the estates Herein lies a splendidchancefor the sugarestates co-operate
                     ....                                                   to           with the
        Government thegreattaskof supplyingthecolonywith a largeandincreasing          population
        of prosperous contented      farmersor smallholders 157
Whetherthe planterswould havecountenanced release someof their empoldered
                                        a       of                      land if there

werea'tide' of immigrantsis debatable;
                                     nonewentto thecolony.Suchactionwasalwaysperceived

as potentially subversive their labour supply; and they had no desireto see,much lessaid, the

        of            and                 That waswhy they wereimplacablyopposed
emergence a'prosperous contented'peasantry.

to thedrainage irrigationof thecoastal
             and                     villages.Everythinghadto besacrificedto Moloch,'King
                        compliance          In
                                  wasassured. 1939,ten yearsafter TheDailyArgosy's

bold exhortation, distinguished
                a             visitor to the colony noted.

        The importanceof land settlementas a meansof reducing the pressureof would-be
        labourers                        is,
                 uponthe sugarestates I believe,appreciated the Administrationin British
        Guiana,thoughthepresent     leaders theEastIndianAssociationare inclinedto imputeto
        the sugarinterests,who naturally exert a big influence in the councils of the Colony. a
        generaldispositionto resist or even to wreck land settlementschemes      and alternative
        industrieslike the rice tradein order to main Sugar'sgrip on the Colony and on labourin

It is to the credit of the Indiansthat they survivedin this backward,malariouscolony. That they

achievedmuch,evenon thesugarestates, oweto themselves their industry,thrift, ingenuity,
                                   they             -
       159 their unwaveringcommitmentto their families.160'They
                                                              built up the rice industry,
culture, and

grew fruits and vegetables.
                          rearedlive stock. and contrived an ingeniousexploitation of every

          nichewithin theplantation
conceivable                                   Fish,for example, caughtin thenumerous
                                   environment.               was
ditchesand canalson the estates.
                                               neverdried up because the sophisticated
hydraulic system.And when the flood-fallowing of cane-fieldsbecame         in
                                                                 wide-spread the 1920s,

the supply of fresh-waterfish (hassa,hourie, parwa, sun-fish, etc). and crabs was augmented

substantially.Fire-wood was obtainedfrom the backlandsof the estates.             (bdn
                                                                    Wild vegetables

karaila and karmie bhagieor wild spinach)and snails,a delicacy to many, were gathered the

                                           'plate' at Hindu weddings,werecollectedin
cane-fields canals.Water-nutleaves, standard
           and                    the
          Grassfor feedingcattlewascut in the fields andon the dams.
the canals.

Indian men,women,and children workedhardand saved,in order to fashiona decentlife. They

wereneversatisfiedwith their barewages. spiteof thelimitations.theharshness theplantation,
                                      In                                  of
it was a nurseryfor the adaptation Indian culture,and the development attitudesand skills,
                                  of                                of

which proved invaluablewhen Indianssettledin the villages. But the social and economiclinks
between                                    tendedto beresilient:villagersalso.continuedto
       theseIndianvillagesand theplantations

                                                   They hadtheir feetin both worlds: Indians
              nicheswithin theplantationenvironment.
exploit several

preferredto settlein the neighbourhood their old sugarestate.

                                                                   sugarpricesin the
Because the backwardeconomyof the colony, and the generallydepressed

1920s,manycontinuedto live on the estates. these,the optionswere more restricted.On the

riverine plantationsespecially,suchas Diamond,Peter'sHall, and Providence, the EastBank

Demerara, rice landswere availablefor the workers;grazinglandsalso were limited. Because

the rich alluvial belt becamenarroweras one advanced the rivers, planterswere excessively

miserly in their release cultivable land. Wageson the estates
                        of                                  werecrucial to the survival of the

Indians in theseareas;possibilitiesfor buying rice landsaway from the estates           A
                                                                             were meagre.

greater         prevailedhere;but in otherareas
       discontent                              also,they resisted,       with their lives,
the perceivedinjusticesof the plantocracy.Indian workershad a tradition of resistance British
Guiana.By the 1920s, overwhelmingmajority wereborn in the colony. Resistance a sign of

                                                                          despair,the deathof
hope; it feedson a vision that a betterlife is possible.Resignationsuggests

hope.Indian workersresisted.

      Labour and Resistance on the Plantations,
    1919-1923, with Special Reference to the Strike
                   Epidemic of 1920
         It takes a very jaundiced eye to read a people's history as a record of undiluted compliance
         and docility. Such an interpretation with respect to slavery was never comfortable in the
         light of numerousexamplesof slave rebellion and revolt. Surely, when the myth of docility
         was transferred to indentured immigrants, it clearly conflicted with the evidence of
         resistance. The dialectic of accommodation and resistance is in many ways most readily
         perceptible within the history of the East Indian immigrant population.
         Walter Rodney, A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881.1905 (The Johns
         Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 151.

It would be inaccurate to claim that resistance by Indian workers dominated their instinct for

accommodation. The argument, so far, has been that throughout the 1920s, they used a variety of

instruments to improve their material condition. And on estatessuch as Port Mourant, Albion, and

Rose Hall, in Berbice, better health in a less malarious region, in conjunction with more ample

alternatives for boosting subsistence,produced a healthier, less contentious industrial climate. In

short, accommodation usually took precedence over resistance. This did not always suggest

contentment; it was 'a necessaryaspectof survival', as Rodney argues, 'within a system in which

                                   by                162
                         monopolised theplanterclass'.
powerwasso comprehensively

However, the evidence suggeststhat Indians had a strong tradition of resistanceto supplementtheir

capacity for hard work within the plantation system. As early as 1869, there were 'riots' at Leonora.

In 1872, at Devonshire Castle, in Essequibo, five were killed and seven wounded. Resistanceto

perceived injustices, especially after the 1884 depression and continuing through 1905, was an

established feature of Indian life on the estates.Between 1886 and 1889, no less than 100 strikes

were recorded. In October 1896, five workers were killed and 59 wounded at Non Parcil, East Coast

Demerara; in May 1903, at Friends, East Bank Berbice, six were killed and sevenwounded; in April

1913,14 were killed at Rose Hall, East Canje, Berbice. In April 1924,13 were killed at Ruimveldt,

East Bank Demerara.163

                 patternto theseshootings. notesthata small incidentover wages
Rodneysees general
          a                              He                                   would

arise;theplantation                                                               from
                             over-reacted; arbitrarilyproceeded remove'ringleaders'
                   authorities          they                  to
          in                                    from the workers,who sawsuchactionas
the estate question;this sparked agitatedresponse


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