Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago — 1st YEAR No.5 — Saturday 11th September 1954
Money lending is one of the most ancient of human occupations. It was prompted by the human need to borrow. It is practised all over the world since two or three thousand years. Wherever the state has not introduced legislation to control pawnbroking, it has turned out a real social evil. The pawnees charge exorbitant rates of interest and impose exacting conditions and in most cases the borrowers are unable to escape from the clutches of the pawnees.
Even in ancient China the pawnshop was familiar as it is today and was regulated as strictly as it is done in modern times. The Chinese conditions were favourable to the borrower; he could redeem his property in three years and he could not be charged more than 3% per annum.
In England pawnbroking was introduced during the Norman Conquest, but it was not very successful. Prior to the arrival of William the Conqueror, the only moneylenders existing in England were the Jews. Despite the valuable services rendered, by the moneylenders, to the public as well as to the Crown, the usurers were treated with “studied cruelty” long afterwards pawnbroking was properly established and today it is strictly controlled. There are 1750 licensed moneylenders in Great Britain; under the Money Lending Act of 1927 every moneylender must pay an annual licence fee of €15. The establishment, in Italy, of Monts de Piété, as it was formerly called in Europe, was done by the authority of the Popes, solely for lending money to the poor without interest; the only security was a pledge and the borrowers could redeem their pawned property at any time. The spread of pawnshops was due mainly to the efforts of clergymen who were in close contact with the suffering poor. They started the “movement” as a purely benevolent and charitable one, but afterwards it was taken up by laymen and legalised. In no way money lending proved to be a social evil, it was a successful venture and in a very short time it spread in many parts of Europe.
In Mauritius there is no law to control pawnbroking; in fact the local usurers, commonly known as “casseurs” are the parasites of our society. Unchecked by authority and in the absence of lawful pawnbrokerage, usury is frightfully increasing. The ruthless usurers pry on the sheer necessity of their victims, the conditions they impose are beneficial to them only and the borrowers who want money by any means are compelled to accept the conditions. The usurers have special preference for clients who have gold to pawn, because it is easily handled and there is no difficulty in storing it.
It is very often the middle class men and women – the small official or the petty trader – who borrow either by sheer necessity or blinded by their middle class prejudices, or in their desperate attempts to keep their standard or to give vent to their petty snobberies. The “casseurs” charge interets in various queer ways; interest per annum is being charged at rates ranging from 25% to 75% on large sums and from 150% to 250% on small sums.
To stop this calamity, money lending (pawnbrokerage) should be legalised as in the larger centres and those who easily fall victim of the usurers should, by all means, join the Co-operative Thrift and Savings Societies.
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What is the C.I.D.I?
A Mauritian friend from Earlscourt, London, writes: “…I am very pleased to learn that you have started an English paper… Our English friends complain that they are unable to read French papers. I have come across one copy of a monthly bulletin printed in English and French and entitled A Commentary on Mauritian Politics. I was rather confused by its contents. Could you tell me what it is? Who is the editor? I should be pleased if you could send me one copy of every issue. What will it cost by air mail?…
Our friend most probably refers to the Monthly Bulletin issued by the ‘Centre International de Documentation et d’Idées’ of Felicien Malefille Street whose title is: ‘A Commentary on Politics and Economics in Mauritius’. The first issue came out on the 10th of March 1954. The Editor’s name is missing. As it is not for sale but for private circulation only, we can’t get any to send to our friend. If he is interested to read it he may call at the Mauritius House or the British Museum or the Crown Agents for the Colonies where, we think, he can procure a copy.
Describing the object of the bulletin, the publishers draw a picture of the “thread-bare” economy of our sugar industry; the rapid increase of the population of Mauritius, its scanty capital reserve, the crushing taxation of a certain section of the population which has been for the benefit of the Constitution and ends: “Furthermore the action of political agitators, as much in Council as elsewhere in the country having never been curbed and it is feared that these will soon bring a severe strain on the fragile and unstable economy of the country. In producing this bulletin each month, based objectively as it is on the more important aspects of politics and economy of the country we hope to draw the attention of the British Government to a situation which requires their energetic intervention. Our future depends on this. The Bulletin is not only sent to officials of the Colonial Office and to newspapers who are able to take up our cause, but also to people prominent in public affairs in Britain, South Africa, Australia and the USA who are likely to be interested in the future of our island and who will make known our real anxieties we are about to explain.”
In other words, the object of C.I.D.I. sounds like an S.O.S. appeal to the British people and Govt., and to the Allied World. Already five copies of the C.I.D.I are out. They make interesting reading.
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MEET THE CROWD AT NAAZ
Saturday 11.9.54 at 8.30 p.m. – BADAL & SHAHENSHA
Sunday 12.9.54 Mat: at 1 p.m. – DHUAN & LAKHEEREN
Sunday 12.9.54 at 7.30 p.m. – DHUAN & HAAR JEET
* Published in print edition on 12 September 2014