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The Lost Indians in British Malaya

Raja, Sivachandralingam Sundara (2014) The Lost Indians in British Malaya. In: 23rd International Conference of Historians of Asia 2014 (IAHA2014), 23 - 27 August 2014, Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia.

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This paper explores the extent to which Indian labour in British Malaya was neglected in relation to both Chinese and indigenous Malays. It is a known fact that since the late 19th century, Indian labour had contributed immensely to economic progress, particularly in the plantation sector.If one were to compare the socio-economic position of the three races, the Indians could be said to be the most neglected lot. The effort to help the Chinese was evident during the great depression (1929-32) which impacted on primary commodities like tin and rubber. The rubber sector suffered the most when wages were reduced. To solve growing unemployment among plantation workers, provision was made for estate workers to leave Malaya through the Immigration Restriction Ordinance (1930).To be fair to the British authorities, attempts were made to encourage Indian labourers to get involved in land settlement schemes, but initiative was not forthcoming on the part of the Indians. The European planters were not keen to create permanent labour force in Malaya and also were unhappy with Indian public opinion over wages and living/working conditions. The British threatened to replace Indian labourers with Chinese and from 1931 attempts were made to negotiate with the government of Java (Netherland Indies) for the supply of Javanese labour. The Indians did not enjoy the kind of opportunities granted to the Chinese.The British were happy to grant vacant lands for unemployed Chinese to cultivate vegetables and commercial crops. It has to be noted that Chinese labourers did not suffer like the Indians during the depression of the 1930s. Despite the slump, the number of Chinese squatters increased but the British did not interfere as they were the source of supply of fresh vegetables and eggs and were considered as useful reservoir of casual labour. Some fifty to sixty thousand Chinese were given Temporary Occupation Licenses with the anticipation that once the slump was over, they would be absorbed into the rubber and mining industries.This assured the Chinese of better economic opportunities after the recession. Further help was given during the Emergency when the Chinese were resettled in “new villages”, which later entitled them to become permanent owners of the land, much to the chagrin of the Malay Rulers.The Malays on the other hand were assisted through specific legislations such as the Malay Land Reservation Enactment (1913), formation of cooperatives and the Rural Industrial Development Authority (RIDA) in the 1950s. The Indians bore the worst brunt.They had suffered during the War under the Japanese, and did not benefit much in the period thereafter when many were hunted down for alleged collaboration with the Japanese.Neither did they enjoy the fruit of the South Indian Labour Fund. The Indians were left outside the ambit of state protection, and the spill-over effects continues to blight prospects for collective advancement of the Indians in post-independent Malaysia.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: ISBN 978-967-0474-77-9 Organized by: Universiti Utara Malaysia and Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Divisions: School of International Studies
Depositing User: Mrs. Norazmilah Yaakub
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2015 06:51
Last Modified: 24 May 2016 06:24

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