Government Labour Villages

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago – 2nd YEAR NO. 33 Friday 25th March 1955

Alternative To Camps

The question to consider now is what should take the place of estate camps.

The housing shortage is acute throughout the island; the sugar workers cannot at present be asked to walk out of the camps however drab and unwholesome these may be. Before this can be done, other and better accommodation must be forthcoming.

No one can deny that the problem is a baffling one.

However at the same time the impossible has to be done for the welfare of the workers if the Labour Welfare Fund has to justify its existence. If the example of the Government Labour Village at Goodlands were followed on a larger scale, the problem of alternative accommodation would be solved without much difficulty. The Labour Welfare Fund Committee in conjunction with other Government Departments could devise ways and means of establishing other Labour Villages of the Goodlands type at suitable spots all over the island. Some of these could be: Mont Piton in the North, Providence at Moka-Flacq; Beau Climat in the South. The money could come from the L. W. Fund and the Development Fund.

The Goodlands Labour Village experiment shows that the sugar workers living on the estates are pining for their freedom. It is only the dire need of something to protect them from rain and sun that keeps them in their camps. Immediately the village was opened, there was a real exodus from St Antoine Estate and many a worker had to go back to camp with sorrow in the heart. This yearning for what is known in the twentieth century as an elementary need of man, ought to meet with the sympathy of people in high places who happen to wield the reins of power, and also of people who are in more fortunate circumstances.

It is hoped that Government, the Labour Welfare Fund Committee, the sugar growers themselves and the representatives of the workers will consider the matter with the utmost objectiveness and breadth of outlook and do the needful to give satisfaction to the much neglected “camp residents”.

The Labour Villages will be of use not only to sugar workers but sugar growers too. So it would be of use here to consider the advantages to be derived by each category.

Advantages to the sugar workers

They will have bargaining power. They will pay rent to Government and therefore will be ensured against eviction on any other ground but a breach of the law of the country. (In the camps, they will be at the mercy of the whim and fancy of the boss).

They could avail of many opportunities to improve themselves, by means of lectures, talks which they could be free to listen to. Literacy drives could be arranged freely, they could have free intercourse with the outside world in the realm of social life politics and other activities. There is a real hindrance to this in estate camps.

Advantages to sugar growers

Cost on transport will be considerably reduced. Estate owners have not to be told how an expensive item transport is. An example would well illustrate this: there are lorries which ply between places as far apart as St Aubin and Palma to recruit labour; sometimes they have to run almost empty. In that same case, if there was a Labour Village at Beau Climat, it would be easy to calculate the saving for St Aubin Estate.

Again, other advantages would be the time saved, the facility for personal contact with the worker at his own place.

In a free atmosphere, there would be more respect for each other between employer and employed. I am sure that the independence conferred on the worker by the Labour Village scheme would in the long run prove beneficial to the employer too. In conclusion, it can be asserted that if the right spirit is shown by all concerned, a new era in the relations between capital and labour could be ushered in this country.

(M.Times – 25 March 1955)

***

A Speech of Maj. General Chatterjee

Major General Chatterjee was given a reception at the Gymkana Club, Port Louis, last Friday by the Indo Mauritian Association. In reply to Hon Mr Seeneevassen’s address of welcome, the Commissioner reciprocated the cordiality and affection with which the Mauritian public had received him on his arrival. He compared the heterogeneity of the people of Mauritius with that in India, where from the early period of History till recent times people of various types and manners and customs had trekked from different corners of the world and had settled down with the common object of building up a nation. As it is known all over the world, people practising different faiths, speaking different tongues, pursuing different avocations and following different ideologies, live in harmonious co-existence in India. Such peaceful internal co-existence is a necessity for the development and advancement of any country.

He incidentally referred to the variety of fauna of the island which live side by side and flourish and add variety and beauty to the land. He feelingly mentioned about co-ordinated heterogeneity that adds beauty to India – to the Unity and Diversity – which adds charm and splendour to the innate morality which is the philosophy of that country.

While confessing his ignorance and inability to speak about the domestic affairs of this colony to which Mr Seeneevassen had referred, he reminded the members and guests about the message of Prime Minister Nehru, in which he had consistently stressed on the necessity and advisability of the settlers abroad and of their children to be completely absorbed in every matter into the fabric of the life of the country of their adoption.

The Commissioner reminded the gathering about the role of the Indo-Mauritian Community, as a responsible brother whose delicate task was to take all other brothers into confidence irrespective of their wealth or poverty or colour or creed, or any other consideration. As an elder brother the Indo-Mauritians have a responsible task of carrying all other sons of the soil with them, because the destiny of all is so very interlinked and because the progress and prosperity of the land depends on common and united endeavour. He pointedly advised the necessity of following the proven path of Truth, Honesty and Non-Violence and hoped that under no circumstances in the march to progress they will swerve from the constitutional compass.

Lastly the Commissioner complimented the Indo-Mauritian Association which has been built up on a broad base for the interest and welfare of all communities and wished them all success in their noble task.

(M.Times – 25 March 1955)

* * *

Was Hon Chadien’s motion sponsored by L. Party?

(Just before going to press a friend has sent us the following note. As it carries some weight we recommend it to our readers’ consideration. Ed)

“Hon Chadien presented a motion to the Council last Tuesday and after the debate when division time came he withdrew it.

Hon Chadien is the Secretary of the Labour Party and Hon Dr Ramgoolam, an influential member of the Labour Party, is the Liaison Officer of the Education Dept. When a member of the party presents a motion, especially when that member happens to be the Secretary of the party, does it not mean that he has got the support of the Party?

It would have been interesting to see the members of the LP voting on such an important question. Dr Ramgoolam as the Liaisor Officer seems to owe a duty to government and a duty to his party. What stand would he have taken torn as he is between two affections? Would the other members of the Labour Party had let their Secretary down or back him up?

And the irony of it all is that Hon Bissoondoyal and Hon Boolell were for the motion. They stood for some principle, regardless from where the motion originated and that is to their credit.

Does not this debate indicate the urgency of establishing party discipline in the LP?”

(M.Times – 11 March 1955)

By Lex

* Published in print edition on 1 May  2015

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