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Suriname in South America celebrates June 5 as Indian Arrival Day

Indian workers were brought to Suriname as indentured labor under the false pretext of visiting a holy place, 'Sri Ram' for piligrimmage

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Indian Labors. Image source: Wikipedia
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  • Indian Arrival Day is celebrated in various countries to mark the arrival of Indians as indentured labour
  • Indians form 27% of Suriname’s population, largest among all communities
  • Speeches and parades are performed to celebrate Indian Arrival Day in the country

A huge number of the Indian population was shipped to various parts of the world as indentured labor by powerful European authorities. As a result, various countries have a sizable chunk of their population attributed to Indians even to this day.

To celebrate and respect the Indian Diaspora, many countries celebrate Indian Arrival Day, which, as mentioned in previous articles published by NewsGram, is “a national holiday celebrated in various countries of the Caribbean, the island nation of Mauritius and Suriname, on different days to acknowledge the first wave of arrival of laborers from the Indian subcontinent by British colonial authorities.”

Indian Arrival Day in Suriname, South America is celebrated on June 5. The country is nestled between Guyana to its west, Brazil to its south and French Guiana to its east. Originally inhabited by local tribes, Suriname was discovered by the Europeans and became a Dutch colony in the 17th century, before finally gaining sovereign status in 1975.

Map of Suriname. Image source: Wikipedia
Map of Suriname. Image source: Wikipedia

On 5 June 1873, Lala Rookh, the sailing ship carrying 452 laborers arrived in Paramaribo, the modern capital of Suriname, after three long months of voyage from Calcutta. This was the first of around 64 vessels which brought over 34,000 Indian laborers through the years of 1873 to 1916, most of them originating from the modern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Dutch people tricked these Indians into believing they were being taken for pilgrimage to the holy land of ‘Sri Ram’, which turned out to be the colony of Suriname.

After their contractual period of labor, which was 5 years for most workers, the Dutch government lured the laborers to settle permanently in their colonial lands. A lot of incentives were provided, like free settlement rights and the provision of a 100 Dutch guilders. These incentives seemed to be evidently popular, as 23,000 ‘Hindustanis’ resolved to stay back and start a life in Suriname. With the acquisition of small plots of rice land, which later spread to larger areas, the Indian diaspora found a source of revenue.

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With the onset of the 20th century, more and more Hindustanis began to explore the sectors of trade and transport. They realized the importance of Western Education to acquire high income jobs, and ensures their children received proper education. The settlement of Hindustanis was helped by the fact that the Dutch Government gave out immediate Dutch Citizenship status to everyone born on Surinamese land. With the progression of time, the Indian diaspora ventured into the field of politics and governance, and eventually made their mark in Suriname.

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The sudden rise of the Indian community was resented by a few local populations and tribes. In 1975, when Suriname was granted independence by the Netherlands, as many as 50% of the then 300,000 strong Indian Diaspora opted to migrate to Netherlands owing to racial tensions and the liberal dutch citizenship.

Today, nearly 27% of Suriname’s population is comprised of East Indians, the largest ethnicity in the country, which mostly originated from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As a result, 22.3% of the population also practices Hinduism, second largest chunk after Christianity, which is followed by 48% of the population.

June 5 is considered a national holiday in Suriname, and important speeches by prominent political figures, like the Indian Ambassador to Suriname are delivered. Wreaths and flowers are often laid at the ‘Baba and Mai’ statue, which represents the first Indian to set foot on Surinamese soil. Parades and coaches along streets attract thousands of spectators, and showcases the unique culture of immigrants and the diaspora.

-by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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Most Terrible Water Crisis Ever In History Leaves Millions Of Indians Thirsty

6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water.

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A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017.
A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017. VOA

Weak infrastructure and a national shortage have made water costly all over India, but Sushila Devi paid a higher price than most. It took the deaths of her husband and son to force authorities to supply it to the slum she calls home.

“They died because of the water problem, nothing else,” said Devi, 40, as she recalled how a brawl over a water tanker carrying clean drinking water in March killed her two relatives and finally prompted the government to drill a tubewell.

“Now things are better. But earlier … the water used to be rusty, we could not even wash our hands or feet with that kind of water,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Delhi.

India is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”, threatening hundreds of millions of lives and jeopardising economic growth, a government think-tank report said in June.

From the northern Himalayas to the sandy, palm-fringed beaches in the south, 600 million people – nearly half India’s population – face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.

Residents like Devi queue daily with pipes, jerry cans and buckets in hand for water from tankers – a common lifeline for those without a safe, reliable municipal supply – often involving elbowing, pushing and punching.

On the rare occasions water does flow from taps, it is often dirty, leading to disease, infection, disability and even death, experts say.

“The water was like poison,” said Devi, who still relies on the tanker for drinking water, outside her one-room shanty in the chronically water-stressed Wazirpur area of the capital Delhi.

“It is better now, but still it is not completely drinkable. It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.”

Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70 percent of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.

Yet only one-third of its wastewater is currently treated, meaning raw sewage flows into rivers, lakes and ponds – and eventually gets into the groundwater.

“Our surface water is contaminated, our groundwater is contaminated. See, everywhere water is being contaminated because we are not managing our solid waste properly,” said the report’s author Avinash Mishra.
Loss of livelihood

Meanwhile, unchecked extraction by farmers and wealthy residents has caused groundwater levels to plunge to record lows, says the report.

It predicts that 21 major cities, including New Delhi and India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.

The head of WaterAid India VK Madhavan said the country’s groundwater was now heavily contaminated.

“We are grappling with issues, with areas that have arsenic contamination, fluoride contamination, with salinity, with nitrates,” he said, listing chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

Arsenic and fluoride occur naturally in the groundwater, but become more concentrated as the water becomes scarcer, while nitrates come from fertilisers, pesticides and other industrial waste that has seeped into the supply.

The level of chemicals in the water was so high, he said, that bacterial contamination – the source of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid – “is in the second order of problems”.

“Poor quality of water – that is loss of livelihood. You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.”

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.
Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater. pixabay

“The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”

Frothy lakes and rivers

Crippling water problems could shave 6 percent off India’s gross domestic product, according to the report by the government think-tank, Niti Aayog.

“This 6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water. Our industry, our food security, everything will be at stake,” said Mishra.

“It is a finite resource. It is not infinite. One day it can (become) extinct,” he said, warning that by 2030 India’s water supply will be half of the demand.

To tackle this crisis, which is predicted to get worse, the government has urged states – responsible for supplying clean water to residents – to prioritise treating waste water to bridge the supply and demand gap and to save lives.

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.

Every year, Bengaluru and New Delhi make global headlines as their heavily polluted water bodies emit clouds of white toxic froth due to a mix of industrial effluents and domestic garbage dumped into them.

In Bengaluru – once known as the “city of lakes” and now doomed to go dry – the Bellandur Lake bursts into flames often, sending plumes of black smoke into sky.

The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days.

On other days, faeces, chemicals and ashes from human cremations float on top, forcing passers-by to cover their mouths and noses against the stench.

That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day.

With no access to water, it is the only way to cool herself down during India’s scorching summers, when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

“There usually is not enough water for us to take a shower, so we come here,” said Gauri, who only gave her first name, as she and her brother splashed around in the filthy river.

Also read: India’s bulging water crisis: Is it too late for us to do something?

“It makes us itchy and sick, but only for some time. We are happy to have this, everyone can use it.” (VOA)