Gandhi’s Visit to Mauritius

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago – 1st YEAR No. 12 – Saturday 30th October 1954

It is today exactly 53 years that Mahatma Gandhi landed in our island, where he stayed for fifteen days. He had not yet attained that pinnacle of greatness which was to make of him the idol of millions. It was much later that his life of selfless devotion and noble sacrifice was to make him take his rank among the world’s immortals. Yet one could dimly foresee in him the champion of Satyagraha and the liberator of India – by non-violent means, the wonder of the western world.

He was an advocate who had practiced at the Bar in South Africa where he had fought valiantly for the cause of the Indians.

On its way from Africa to India the ship in which he sailed cast anchor at Port-Louis. Most of the local newspapers spoke of this event.

The Standard – a local newspaper edited in English-French – wrote on the 31st October 1901. “A bord du Nowshara, arrivé hier de Natal se trouve le grand avocat Indien, Gandy, qui se rend de Natal à Bombay. Comme il débarquera à Maurice les Indiens se propose de le fêter. M. Gandy est l’avocat qui a defendu la cause des Indiens au Cap, lorsque le gouvernement de ce pays voulut empêcher leur débarquement à Natal et il eut gain de cause auprès du Ministre. »

Indo-Mauritians felt honoured by the presence of the young barrister and gave him receptions. The most noteworthy receptions was given by Mr Goolam Mamode Ajam Son in Taher Bagh, Champ-de-Mars. We read in the Journal De Maurice of the 15th November 1901: “M. K. Gandhi, l’avocat Indien de passage à Maurice a fêté hier soir par la communauté Arabe. »

A compte rendu of speech delivered by the Mahatma on this occasion was reported in the same newspaper. Among other things Gandhi said that he was struck by the keen intelligence of Indo-Mauritians. His wish was that they should interest themselves with politics “non pas de la batailleuse contre le Gouvernement, mais pour revendiquer ses droits et sa place au soleil sous le pavillon de la liberté ». He concluded in saying that he hoped that thought would be given to education in Mauritius in order that « les Asiatiques pussent aspirer à la gestion des affaires public et des intérêts vitaux de la colonie dont ils sont des principaux facteurs.”

It is said that he visited the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, Chamarel and other places of interest. His visit to Mauritius came to his mind when he sat down to write his Experiment with Truth. “So I sailed for home. Mauritius was one of the ports of call, and as the boat made a long halt there, I went ashore and acquainted myself fairly well with the local conditions. For one night I was the guest of Sir Charles Bruce, the Governor of the Colony.”

In a letter to Marshall Chiang Kai Shek in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi mentioned that he came in contact with Sino-Mauritians during his visit to Mauritius.

An Indo-Mauritian, Thambi Naidoo, had the proud privilege to take part in his civil disobedience movement in South Africa. Gandhiji speaks of his man in glowing terms in one of his books.

The Indo-Mauritian feel honoured that he is living in a land which was trodden by the footsteps of the man who has been the pride of modern times.


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 News & Views

Sixth Standard Examination Papers

A nicely typed letter reflects to some extent the character of the sender or the standard of the firm which sends the letter. Naturally one expects that examination papers especially when it is intended for primary school children, many of whom have probably never read a typed manuscript, to be typed with utmost care.

It appears that all examination papers of the sixth standard examinations were typed on a typewriter the keyboard of which was not functioning properly – especially the letter A which, it seems, makes very often jerky leap and leaves a blank space. In the papers where this has happened the letter A is linked to the consecutive letter by a small line. For example voya is linked to ge, rema to inning, a to battu, va to is. This sort of misprint occurs in twenty-two instances in all the papers. No wonder if many children have read that line as a hyphen.

In the English paper, question No. 2 reads: Of the words given in brackets, choose the correct one to fill in the blank: ‘I was not aware (of, to, by) his coming.’ In the above sentence a is linked to ware. Can the candidate be blamed if he read a ware instead of aware and uses any of the three prepositions?

Another discrepancy in question No 2 is that the examiners ask the candidates to fill the blank while there is no blank space in any of the five sentences of the question.

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Colour not a mark of Inferiority

Capetown’s Archishop list obligations

The Catholic Herald writes that Archbishop Mc Cann in a statement on race relations said that a European must not despise the non-European, otherwise he despises Christ. The Archbishop set out a number of other obligations for the European:

1.     He must treat the non-European with justice and charity.

2.     He must not shun the non-European or look down upon him because of his different colour.

3.     He must realize that there is nothing wrong in mixing with non-Europeans.

4.     He should recognise that there are non-Europeans of cultural attainments who are his superiors.

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Salary Rs 7020 – p.a. – Qualification Sixth Standard

A post of commercial Inspector Grade II is vacant at the Telephone Dept. the scale of salary is Rs 4,380 – Rs 7,020 p.a. plus cost of living allowance. The minimum qualification required is sixth standard and a vague experience in accounts.

Government has recently legislated that the accounts of traders as from 1957 must be audited by a duly qualified accountant. In the Health Department, to be admitted as a nursing student only candidates holding a Junior School Certificate or its equivalent as a minimum qualification are selected; the allowance given to a nursing student is Rs 1,164 – plus c.o.l.a. and when he qualifies as a dresser he is paid Rs 2,280 – plus c.o.l.a. We cannot make out why for such an important and high salaried post such a low qualification is required and why outsiders have not been asked to apply. Skeptics maintain that the Selection Board which sat on Monday last to interview candidates was the usual mise en scène sometimes staged by Government Departments and that the favourite candidate for the post is a holder of the sixth standard certificate. Can this be true? Let us wait and see.

Whenever a candidate of low academic qualification is selected the plea is that consideration is given to previous technical experience. The evil persists since the very foundation of that department. In 1938 when Government took over the Telephone Department from private enterprise, it employed the existing staff. The junior staff was composed of persons of low academic qualifications. The senior staff was then drawn from the juniors.

The tradition persists so much so that today even some of the 1st Grade Inspectors who draw salaries of about Rs 9,000 p.a hold only a sixth standard certificate. Beside the question of efficiency there is the question of principle. We hope Government will bring a change in this archaic method of selection.


* Published in print edition on 31 Ocotober 2014

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