Socio‑Political Consequences of Forced Migration: The Case of Indian Indentured Workers to Fiji
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During the period of 1879 to 1916, 60 thousand Indian indentured workers were shipped from India to Fiji to supply labour to a nascent sugar industry. The system of indenture bonded the workers for a minimum of 5 years to their employer, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of Australia (CSR). The economic reality of indenture, however, was that the majority of the workers were stranded in Fiji for generations. CSR departed in 1969 and Britain as the colonial power left a year later, leaving behind a deeply divided polity with ethnicity and race at the centre of political struggle. Since its independence in 1970 Fiji has had four military coup d’états and in the process transformed itself from being a nation of immigrants to one of emigrants. Economic decline and poverty, in the meantime, accelerated: the proportion of the population with income below the national poverty line increased from one in eight in 1977 to one in four by 1990 and one in three by 2002. It is, on all indications, still rising. Here I narrate the political and socio-politico‑economic consequences of indenture to Fiji.
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