Indentured Indian Labourers Memorial and Kolkata Port Trust Clock Tower
Indentured Indian Labourers Memorial and Clock Tower
Kolkata Port Trust, Kidderpore, Kolkata
We are the forgotten children of mother India. Mauritius, Trinidad, Suriname, Guyana and Fiji celebrate Indian Arrival Day and have memorials for the Indian workers. But in India no one remembers them
David Sheoraj of Trinidad and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)
Fiji: 14 May, Mauritius: 2 Nov., Trinidad: 30 May, Guyana: 8 May, Suriname: 5 June, Jamaica: 10 May. These days are all national holidays in the respective countries and are known as the Indian Arrival Day.
Indian Arrival Day is celebrated in these countries to remember the day on which the first wave of Indian indentured labourers arrived in the respective countries.
These days are not only celebrated as holidays but also various cultural events are held by the People of India Origin (PIO).
Sadly India has forgotten its lost children but Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) making all efforts to retrace the great Indian Diaspora.
The Kolkata Memorial, an initiative of GOPIO, at the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) docks is a latest initiative to remember the Indian indentured labourers. It is a meaningful significance to the millions of descendants of those who left India as indentured Indian laborers from 1834 through 1920.
Kolkata (then Calcutta) was the port of call for the thousand of men and women who sailed across the kalapani in search of a fortune on other side of the world. They braved the high seas and sailed to far off lands in search of a better livelihood for themselves and their family.
The indentured workers were recruited from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the former Madras Presidency area.
Each colony, whether it was Mauritius, Guyana or Suriname had its depot in Calcutta where the indentured recruits were lodged while they waited for their sailing ship to arrive. From their depots they were taken to jetties or ghats to embark on the ships or the small boats that took them to the large ocean-going ships.
The jetties came to be known by the name of the destination to which the migrants were travelling. Most of the jetties fell into disuse and were forgotten after the indentured sailings ended in the early 20th century.
Sadly these jetties can no longer be traced but the Suriname Jetty still exists (although the locals call it the Balu Ghat). In 2015 a small and simple memorial represents the statue of Babba and Mai or Mai Baap(Father & Mother).
The statue is a replica of the Baba and Mai monument in Parimaribo, Suriname’s capital, which symbolizes the first Indian man and woman to set foot on Suriname. Although extremely difficult to locate it is accessible to general public (Also see: Suriname Memorial).
But prior to the Suriname Memorial the Kolkata Memorial was inaugurated on January 11, 2011 at Kidderpore Depot by Vayalar Ravi, Minister of India’s Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA).
The Kolkata Memorial looks similar to the Suriname Memorial but have no statues. The simple memorial has inscriptions on all its four sides. English on two sides, while Bengali and Hindi on the other two. It glorifying the adventurous journey of the thousand of Indian indentured labourers.
Sadly, unlike the Suriname Memorial, the Kolkata Memorial is out of reach of general public. One needs a permission from the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) to visit and photograph the memorial.
It can be approached through the Office of the Chief Mechanical Engineer at 8, Garden Reach Road, located next to the Swing Bridge.
Today the small memorial stands next to a Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) jetty on the banks of the Hooghly River with a grand view of the Second Hooghly Bridge (Vidyasagar Setu).
Next to the Kolkata Memorial is the brick red coloured Clock Tower of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT). The tower was built in 1899 to help ships in transit to set their time. The tower was designed by W. Banks Gwyther and constructed by Martin and Company. The four dialed clock was set up by Cooke and Kelvey.
Although the clock tower was a witness to the later part of the great Indian migration, it had no direct connection with the voyages of the Indian indentured labourers.
Sadly in recent time the clock tower is often wrongly refereed to as the Demerara Clock Tower after a river and region in Guyana, where the Indian labourers landed.
The Clock Tower, with projecting balconies on all four sides, was renovated in 2013 and overlooks the mighty Hooghly River.
- My friend Sumanta Roychowdhury of Kolkata Port Trust (KopT) for putting me in touch with the concerned person.
- Goutam Charkaborty also from Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) for not only arranging the necessary permissions but also providing valuable inputs for the blog post