Memorial plaque in honour of Indian indentured labourers unveiled at Kolkata Port

View on the River Hooghly (Hugli), taken in the 1890s. Looking north over the rooftops towards the river with the Howrah Bridge in the distance. The Export and Import Jetties can be seen in the foreground. Photographer unidentified. Sourse: British Library. Elgin Collection: ‘Spring Tours 1894-98’
A memorial plaque in honour of Indian indentured labourers was unveiled on January 11, 2011 at Kidderpore Dock, Kolkata Port by Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.  Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee was amongst those present on the occasio. The plaque has been put up with the support of the Union Ministry of Shipping, the West Bengal Government and the Kolkata Port Trust.

Mr Ravi said descendants of the Indian indentured labourers were scattered across continents and many of them had done extremely well for themselves and their adopted countries. “In fact, some have reached the highest political positions in their countries and are now shaping the destinies of their adopted countries,” he said.  Mr Ravi said the memorial symbolized the deep emotional connect the descendants of those Indians, who are now living in different countries of the world, had with India.

“All of them nurture within their hearts, a strong bond with the land of their ancestors, India. It is the innate Indianness that each of them still carries, that ensures that India’s footprint is felt all over the world,” he said.

During the indenture system, which lasted from 1833 to 1920, more than 1,190,000 Indians were sent to work to different parts of the world. About 453,000 went to Mauritius, 239,000 to British Guiana, 144,000 to Trinidad and 152,000 to Natal, South Africa.

This is the first ever memorial established in India in honour of Indian indentured labourers who travelled from India in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Kolkata Memorial recognizes and honours the indomitable spirit and heroism of all Indians who left the shores of their motherland from 1833 to 1920 to embark on long and hazardous journeys to far away lands and begin a new life there.

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