Unesco to study historic migration of Indian labourers

India will join the world on Sunday to commemorate a historic journey that over two million labourers indentured by colonial planters from this land had to undertake about 180 years ago to work across the colonies of the British Empire.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has now recognised the migration of over 2.2 million indentured labourers from India to 26 other colonies of the British Empire in mid-19th century as one of the world’s greatest mass movements of the diaspora. The UN agency early this week adopted a proposal co-sponsored by India and Mauritius to launch the “International Indentured Labour Route Project” to study the historic mass migration and its role in cultural interactions and shaping modern societies in former colonies of British Empire.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday left New Delhi for a visit to Mauritius. She will represent India over the next two days in events, which will not only commemorate the 180th anniversary of the arrival of the first batch of indentured labourers from India to Mauritius, but also mark the launch of the Unesco project.   

The British planters had transported the first batch of indentured labourers from India to Mauritius, as sugarcane plantations in the Indian Ocean island had faced a problem of shortage of workforce after abolition of slavery in Europe in mid-1830s. A ship MV Atlas crowded with indentured labourers from India had arrived in Port Louis on November 2, 1834. Mauritius eventually became the destination of about 4,62,000 indentured labourers from India and their descendents now constitute the ethnic majority of the island nation’s population.

On Sunday, Swaraj will attend a commemorative ceremony the Mauritian government has organised at Apravasi Ghat.

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