Indentured Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian "coolies" singing and dancing on an estate in Trinidad and Tobago. By the s, many Indians they were referred to as Klings, or Keling , which was used as a derogatory word, much as the word Coolie  were voluntarily enlisting to go abroad for work, in the hopes of a better life. European merchants and businessmen quickly took advantage of this and began recruiting them for work as a cheap source of labour. A system of agents was used to infiltrate the rural villages of India and recruit labourers.
They would often deceive the credulous workers about the great opportunities that awaited them for their own material betterment abroad. The Indians primarily came from the Indo-Gangetic Plain , but also from Tamil Nadu and other areas to the south of the country. In the last part of the nineteenth century alone, there were 24 famines.
By , over 3, labourers had been transported. After this trade was discovered, the French successfully negotiated with the British in for permission to transport over 6, workers annually, on condition that the trade would be suspended if abuses were discovered to be taking place.
Slavery had been abolished, with the planters receiving two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves. The planters turned to bringing in a large number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between and , around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. The rules provided for each labourer to be personally authorised for transportation by an officer designated by the Government, limited the length of service to five years subject to voluntary renewal, made the contractor responsible for returning the worker after the contract elapsed and required the vessels to conform to basic health standards.
Despite this, conditions on the ships were often extremely crowded, with rampant disease and malnutrition. Coolies were also not informed about the length of the trip or about the island that they would be going to.
Colonial legislation was also passed to severely limit their freedoms; in Mauritius a compulsory pass system was instituted to enable their movements to be easily tracked. Conditions were much worse in the French colonies of Reunion and Guadeloupe and Martinique , where workers were 'systematically overworked' and abnormally high mortality rates were recorded for those working in the mines.
However, these promises were rarely kept, leading to the higher mortality rate and image of Indian Coolies being "dirty". Though some ships had made attempts to prevent assault, rape, and general mistreatment in sailor contracts, these indiscretions were still common. Even with punishments in place, on ship and land, men who assaulted women and children were rarely punished, leaving women in an even more vulnerable position. Workers were regularly checked up on by health inspectors , and they were vetted before transportation to ensure that they were suitably healthy and fit to be able to endure the rigours of labour.
Children under the age of 15 were not allowed to be transported from their parents under any circumstances. Petitions from Sturge, the Society of Friends, various other humanitarian groups, and from citizens of entire cities were routinely sent to the Colonial Offices. A more rigorous regulatory framework was put into place and severe penalties were imposed for infractions in In that year, almost 35, people were shipped to Mauritius. Starting in , many Indians were transported to Fiji to work on the sugar cane plantations.
Indian workers were also imported into the Dutch colony of Suriname after the Dutch signed a treaty with the United Kingdom on the recruitment of contract workers in In Mauritius, the Indian population are now demographically dominant, with Indian festivals being celebrated as national holidays.
Increasing focus on the brutalities and abuses of the trade by the sensationalist media of the time, incited public outrage and lead to the official ending of the coolie trade in by the British government. By that time tens of thousands of Chinese workers were being used along the Western Front by the allied forces see Chinese Labour Corps. The contrast with the female to male ratio among Indian and Chinese immigrants has been compared by historians.
With women as a severe minority, their morality was questioned and the actions of men as a result of having so few women was blamed on the women. Between and , laws were put into place stating that the ratio of men to women could not exceed 2: However, there continued to be a severe shortage of women.
This gave women a new sense of power when it came to choosing a partner. With a shortage of women, it became the responsibility of the male suitor to provide a hefty dowry to a woman's father, regardless of what caste she came from. Rape was a common occurrence, and there were accounts of women being bound and gagged in their own home by men.
Between and , it was reported that 87 women were murdered with 65 of those being married women who were accused of being unfaithful. Many Coolie women saw the chance to leave for the Caribbean as a way to escape abusive husbands, to hide pregnancy, to escape shame, or to simply find a better life.
The Indian Immigration Act aimed to stop women from escaping their abusive husbands, which in turn made it much more difficult for women to emigrate. This in part due to an agent generally needing to travel to the woman's village in order to verify who she was.
Though there were crimes against women and women being murdered, these incidents were nowhere near as frequent as with Indian Coolies.
Though this was because there were so few Chinese, it became common for people to believe that Indians murder their women while Chinese women stay alive because, unlike their Indian counterparts, they are chaste.
Generally, it was believed that women were unwilling to perform the hard outdoor labor. Those who did perform it were still seen as not as good as men. The Act's primary objectives include the prevention of hate speech terms, such as coolie koelie: To promote equality To prohibit and prevent unfair discrimination either on the basis of age, race, sex, disability, language, religion, culture, etc. To prevent hate speech e. He thanked them for their hard work.
Reuters, a news source from Bangkok, reported of Thai labour groups angered by his use of the term. It is no longer an accepted term and it, and its Zulu version, amakhula, is considered an extremely derogatory term for people of Indian descent. Nevertheless, the use of such especially by foreigners may still be regarded as a slur by some. The word is not used as a slur however.
The term used to refer to Arab day-laborers who migrated to Ethiopia for labour work. The word generally has no particular ethnic connotations among the Dutch , but it is a racial slur amongst Surinamese of Indian heritage. It is sometimes used in a racially derogatory context and sometimes used in friendly banter.
Poet and semiologist Khal Torabully coined the word coolitude to refer to a postcolonial , postmodern vision of humanism and diversity born from the indenture or coolie experience.
In Hungarian, "kulimunka", literally "coolie work", refers to back-breaking, repetitive work. In India, the term is often used to refer to a person paid to carry people's bags at a railway station In Sri Lanka sinhala , "kuliwada" is the term for manual labor. Kuliyata means working for a fee, notably instant cash payment and not salaried. Taxis are known as kuli-ratha.
In art, entertainment, and media[ edit ] Films[ edit ] In the film The Bridge on the River Kwai , when his officers are ordered to participate in the construction of the bridge, British officer Col.
Nicholson Alec Guinness declares that they will not be used as coolies by their captors. The enlisted men cheer when their social betters are excused the work. Coolie is an Indian film about a coolie, played by Amitabh Bachchan , who works at a railway station and has a lover. His lover's father once murdered a girl's father in an attempt to force her to marry him, but she did not give in. Fu Manchu , " I can't even trust our own Coolies.
The story, among many parallel story lines, involves an American Navy engineer Steve McQueen befriending a Coolie working under his command Mako in the engine room. The film was nominated for 8 Oscars. Richard Attenborough won the best supporting actor Golden Globe. The film Romper Stomper shows a white power skinhead named Hando played by Russell Crowe expressing distress about the idea of being a coolie in his own country.
Also, the gang he directs makes frequent attacks at gangs of working class Vietnamese Australians. The documentary film directed by Yung Chang called Up the Yangtze follows the life of a family in China that is relocated due to the flooding of the Yangtze. The daughter is sent directly from finishing middle school to work on a cruise ship for western tourists, to earn money for her family. Her father referred to himself as a "coolie" who used to carry bags on and off of boats.