Paradise In The Making

Mauritius Times 60 Years

By R. Sewgobind

“See Naples and die, but see the Five-year Plan and live!” That is how you would exclaim to those Mauritians who have a desperate struggle for existence and who seem to have no hope for the future. Although if they chose to listen to you and decided to live, you would be unwittingly aggravating the population problem. But never mind, the Plan will be there! Place yourself at the middle of the year 1962 and you cannot help marvelling at the new and manifold additions to the material assets of this country. It is called the Island Paradise even now but this is due perhaps to its natural beauty and charm. Five years hence, our first Five-Year Plan claims, the island will be well on the road to deserve the elysian name which is rather prematurely bestowed upon it.

Any paradise is naturally for the dead and departed, but our Elysium will be for the living — yes for the swelling mass of Mauritians of tomorrow.

By 1962, Mauritius will have had a new trunk road running from Port Louis to Forest Side. Our ace-drivers, especially from the “most civilised” who race through the towns of Curepipe – Rose Hill – Port Louis casting to the winds the precepts of the Road Traffic Code will then at last find a track for all the dare-devilry of a Le Mans automobile racecourse. They could then sport with their own lives more than with the lives of other users of the road.

Instead of curing diseases all the time, we must also try to prevent their outbreak and progress. If we have hospitals where we cure patients, we must have a sewerage system which will prevent the infection inherent in the Night Soil Service. The people of Plaines Wilhems need this preventive measure most and they will have it, as they are the first applicants for a WC system. The degree of infection in this sense in the villages too cannot be too small as their modus operandi is more repugnant than the night soil service. But townships first and villages afterwards! Other five-year plans might think of providing a village drainage system if the villages are compact and taxable enough.

The Paradise will not have only its own denizens all the time. Outsiders will be allowed excursions into it, on condition that these visitors come with hard currency to spend. They will stay at the Park Hotel, Grand Bay Hotel and Blue Bay Hotel, a few of the prominent touristic abodes. They will watch “segas” and eat oysters and snoek, roll on the white silvery sands and watch the breakers. There will be an exotic blending of the Riviera and the Honolulu and Hawaii resorts. Bikinis and hoola-hoola skirts may or may not be there. But who says that visitors from gayer centres may not come to our puritanic shores for a moral regeneration?

The new hotels are mainly intended for tourists and we are wont to imagine tourists as mainly white-skinned. This will raise problems. South African whites coming here will perhaps insist on colour segregation and if the management of our hotels is in white hands, a colour bar may easily operate. Raise the prices of accommodation and service and reserve the right of admission and you will have put into operation a colour bar more brutal and unassailable than an official apartheid. Already there have been reports of unpleasant experiences at the Park Hotel in which the Government has a twenty-percent interest. This Hotel alone earned over one million rupees in foreign currency during 1957. Will an appetite for lucre rush this Island into a state where its own non-White inhabitants may find themselves undesirable? This is what we have to be vigilant about in fostering our tourist industry.

In 1960 if you are cancer-stricken you can be treated more hopefully at the Cancer Unit of Candos, where cobalt bomb worth Rs 110,000 will be added by that time. You can have specialized treatment for TB at a special hospital to be erected at Moka and for eye-diseases at a separate unit at Candos.

Patients from the North need not be impatient much longer at the insufficiency of the Poudre d’Or and Long Mountain hospitals. The new Northern Central Hospital will try to excel as much as Victoria and Civil Hospitals. Delinquents will spend their terms of imprisonment where no “iron bars do a prison make.” The open Prison of Richelieu will be a symbol of recognition by us of the more humanitarian notions of the correct treatment to be meted out to our offenders. The various trades and crafts that they are learning and practising behind high forbidding stone walls now will be there for us to see and to be convinced of their chances of rehabilitation as useful members of society.

Our fishermen will be encouraged to do deep-sea fishing and bring us a larger catch at cheaper prices. Fishing and its marketing will be organized with this aim in view. While our own labour and financial resources are idle, we are invisibly providing work and profit for Indian, Ceylonese, British, South African and Madagascar labour and capital. How? The tinned tomato-soup, the tea, the pears and peaches and fruit salad we import on a large scale are the answer.

The Mauritius of tomorrow will have its cattle farms, model vegetable and fruit farmers. Its tea which is already commanding at London auction sales favourable prices compared with first class Ceylon and Indian tea will have progressed from its African class to world standard. We will sell quality if not quantity, but sell we will.

By planting huge pine forests, we will eventually produce wood pulp and possibly paper. Newsprint shortage and its attendant exorbitant prices will not be there to deter our publishers from considering the incessant output of our poets and writers.

If some publisher, editor or otherwise, were to turn down your article, why, you could just start a paper of your own and thus promote the cause of arts, literature and public opinion in a democracy. Your new paper may create new trouble and thinking, but it will also boost up the sale of wood pulp and our new industry will need buyers in sufficient numbers. Another feature of the new order will be that some of our importers of canned foodstuffs and industrial requirements may turn producers once the vegetable and fruit, cement and fertilizer industries are started here.

A paradise with all these will surely not be devoid of light and that of the best sort. There will be electricity everywhere. Before we have solved our problem of locating more water sources, we shall probably have the limitless sea for the generation of electricity. Indeed, the CEB, anxious to keep abreast of the times, is carefully preparing a scheme to utilise this marine source for power.

Government buildings in Port Louis and elsewhere will don a new garb of dignity and splendour. New blocks for offices of Ministers, oversea officers, professional and technical, and their quarters will become objects of civic pride. The area of Central Government buildings will probably extend up to the former prison. It may evoke memories of Whitehall or the Delhi Secretariat. This, then, is what you will witness, inter alia, in the next five years. Imposing, grand and at the same time absolutely necessary!

But we are warned, a condition of success is that we keep in check our upward trend in population. How? The planners have left the choice of method to our conscience, because many of us seem to be conscientious objectors to birth-control.

If the increase in population is not controlled and stopped, the Plan, it is certain, will be a vain pursuit. But the planners will have created something new in Government literature and method of approach. Planned thinking and action has emerged where only haphazard activities held sway.

If we can fulfil the few ifs that have been laid down, namely, if we co-operate fully; if we get the loans inland and abroad; if we check over-population; if the works planned are properly and honestly executed, we will have achieved something new — an Elysium as new as the Ministerial System, as Universal Suffrage and, eventually, as Responsible Government!

5th Year – No 210
Friday 15th August, 1958

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