The People Suffers a Terrible Setback in 1955

2nd Year No 73 – Friday – 30th December 1955

The movement of the poor people in Mauritius has in 1955 suffered a terrible setback. It is very sad to say it. And yet it is but true. What is the cause of this?

Unemployment has become more acute. More people are now unemployed and of many more categories. Automatic machinery in factories has driven away the mill hand. Factory workshops are doing less, and more work is going to contractors and big concerns.

These affect coloured people to a great extent. Since a very long time in history the position was never as bad as this. A large number of people are on the brink of starvation of starvation. They suffer, for long months, severe privations.

To this has been added the thousands of returned soldiers after very long period of military service. A Committee was appointed to help them to be absorbed. But the matter just lingers. I have seen misery written on the face of our battle-scarred soldiers. But I feel that nothing is being done nor is anything likely to be done in the near future.

The Railway and Sack Factory men are other classes that need some help. People will just go on talking and talking oblivious of the fact that empty stomachs cannot wait indefinitely.

Talking of unemployment, how can we forget the widespread discontent among agricultural workers during the intercrop? Dozens of cases had come to my notice. This in a year of record crop!

No less difficult was the case of cow keepers. Probably this year was the worst for the supply of fodder. I am told that hundreds of animals had to be sold. What is remarkable is that this penury of fodder persisted through part of the crop when fodder is considered to be plentiful.

I am glad the Black River case was brought up to the Council. But I feel that in the process the main issue was sidetracked. It was essentially a fodder question. When will the cowkeepers get a full-dress debate about their pitiable case? It is a beautiful wish to desire good milk. But it is also our duty to create satisfactory conditions for cow keeping.

In the educational sphere there is utter frustration on various scores. The lot of infants is more acute but the position at the other end is far from being rosy. I refer to the problem of the absorption of qualified people. Every year many young men and women are qualifying. But what is the future?

Personally I feel as acutely about the future of educated people as I feel about school accommodation for infants. I think that is not a matter solely for the Director of Education. It is a matter for planning by higher authorities. It must soon be faced otherwise it may appear to be too late. At any rate, the two aspects of the educational problem were not felt as seriously as it has been felt this year.

I had expected the Cooperative movement would make great strides to alleviate the lot of the members. Since a few years the progress has been satisfactory. But I have the impression that it is not going through its second stage as fast as it should have gone.

What about the movement of Trade Unions? I fear that we had neared an unfortunate schism. But luckily it has been averted. Have we gone ahead in the matter of organization, consolidation and strength? It is better not to discuss this further.

The condition of planters whether of canes or of foodstuffs has not changed for the better in spite of much noise. The Council sponsored a motion about two-third extraction of sugar but it seems to have been a still-birth. Nothing has been whispered of that matter. And all is quite!

The planters have in so many works expressed no confidence against the technical staff of the Central Board. For decency’s sake they would have liked two Registrars with equal powers of computation and testing. That would establish confidence all round. The fact that such a proposal, just as it is, is not interesting the authorities leaves a sour taste.

It is said that if all technicians are of the miller class, the millers cannot see the objection of others but if all technicians come to be coloured they would be prone to machine-gun the whole organisation. Which proves the extreme fairness of things in Mauritius!

The metayers have been waiting for the bill to go through. Every time a new excuse is given and the matter will hang on forever. The result is that planters have in the meantime lost millions.

To sum up: we have talked of Constitution and things too often and too much. Result: nil. In the meantime the paws of capitalism have been driven deep into the financial structure of the country. The artisans, the labourers, the educated, the children, the cow-keepers, planters and all such people are in every way worse off than they were in 1954.

I repeat the question I put in the beginning: what is the cause of this?

I am tempted, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, to say: “I think I can answer the question.”

Jay Narain Roy

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