Wrecking Homes, Making Families
In the nineteenth century, more than a million workers left India to labour under indenture in sugar estates in various parts of the colonial world. Meant to replace the newly freed African slaves, they were tied to the estates by draconian contracts and subjected to harsh labour regimes. Planters preferred to import Indians rather than draw from the locally settled populations in order to be able to command direct labour and avoid the costs of reproduction. These calculations also influenced their import strategy; there was no demand for Indian women. Following in the habits of the slavery regime, planters regarded imported Indians as units of labour and it mattered little to them that their strategy resulted in communities of predominantly male workers. The circulation of persistently unsettled male indentured workers promised, they believed, a better guarantee of docile servitude.