Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 8, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
0 Miles 100 INDIA SRI LANKA Indian coolies bear cost of tea estate prosperity The best to you from Palm. Ice Cream. PALM DAIRIES LIMITED Sri Lanka Hiding beneath the undulating green carpet of Sri Lanka's famed tea growing country is a little known story of labor exploitation that Is among the world's worst. For more than a the tea estates have been the island's pride and chief source of thing that put Ceylon Sri Lanka was called until on the map. But several generations of underpaid Indian laborers have been the ones who bore the costs. It was the British who initially brought the Tamils over from south India around 1886 to become the pack mules of colonial commerce fashioning and nurturing the land under conditions barely allowing survival but nevertheless bringing riches to their first British and later also Ceylonese. Herded into virtual slave the Indian immigrants have known little else but hard physical and alienation. They were dubbed Their work was to uproot plant and tend the tea or perform as a servant at the superintendent's bungalow. To strengthen the tea gangs of the hardier India laborers were used to build the big truck roads and to lay railway track from the hill country to the ports in Trincomalee and which now form the most vital links in the island's transport system. Even today those too young or too infirm to labor on the land are considered fortunate if they can work in one of the thousands of Sri Lankan homes which employ teen-age or child coolies and to do all the dirty jobs in return for old and 20 rupees amonth than Laborers are paid a wage of 3.40 rupees per day 65 for their sweat and toil. But for the women to qualify for the day's who do the tea must work from the crack of dawn and gather a minimum of 30 pounds of tea buds. That means they receive an average of about 2 cents for each pound they bring in while the tea companies in Colombo make an average profit of 38 cents per pound and the agency houses which sell the tea at Mincing Lane in London treble those profits. By GUY DE FONTGALLAND Christian Science Monitor The Indian laborers have received no benefits beyond the meagerest kind of subsistence. The education of their children has been given little or no attention by either the British or the Ceylonese. Housing conditions are deplorable. Laborers live in dreary rows of barrack-like dwellings in which a single small room is allotted to family groups of up to 12 members. Many ot these housing blocks have gone without any repair for the last 50 years. Despite the existence of two major trade unions that at least nominally represent the plantation attempts to secure them a monthly wage and improve their conditions have proved abortive so far. One crusading attempt to start a political movement potential links to south came to an end when the leaders were rounded up on trumped-up charges and the party proscribed. Until recently there were an estimated of these Indian laborers in Sri Lanka. They had remained disfranchised and ever since the country became independent from the British in when neither Delhi nor Colombo was ready or willing to accept responsibility for them. But in a 1964 pact the two countries finally agreed to a formula under which the majority were to be repatriated to while Ceylon would offer citizenship to those who indicated a desire to stay. So far Indian laborers have left the island shores for India a process of repatriation that will most likely take another 10 years to complete. Sri Lanka has conferred citizenship on But it will be a long struggle before the stamp of is erased from the faces of those staying here. When a food crisis hit the country full blast last year it was the estate coolie who suffered most. Ceylonese were doled out whatever was in the while shopkeepers turned away the Indians saying. is no bread for the An estate superintendent admitted that are looking for grass to And during a tour of the hill this writer saw them making roti thin unleavened out of cattle while starving children sat by roadside food stands waiting for crumbs. A mother of six children who mistook this reporter for a came running over and will you take my 13-year-old girl with She is a good hard worker. It is enough it you could give her only PRICES EFFECTIVE MAY 9 to WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO LIMIT QUANTITIES Chuck Steak Standing Rib Roast irrradeA I49 Cross Rib Roasts I39 j I Q j V W I j I I Burns whole half. Ready to Ib Burnshire 1 Ib. net wt. package Fresh Canada Grade A Whole Fryers to 4 Ib. 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