Prez traces Indian immigrants in Mauritius

The site of Apravasi Ghat was chosen by Colonial British authorities for sheltering immigrant workers after the long ship voyage.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 12:30 IST

Tracing the footsteps of the first Indian immigrants in Mauritius, President APJ Abdul Kalam on Monday visited the 'Apravasi Ghat'.

The Ghat is a place where indentured labourers from the country arrived between 1830s and 1920s.

Known in earlier days as "Coolie Ghat" or "Immigration Depot", 'Apravasi Ghat'denotes a place through which nearly 4,50,000 indentured labourers came to Mauritius.

The place symbolises one of the great waves of migration in recorded history, which has had a determining impact on the demographic profile of the present-day Mauritian population.

The President, on the last day of his three-day visit to the picturesque island republic, placed a wreath on the plaque called 'the unknown immigrant'.

Officials said that nearly 70 per cent of Mauritian citizens can trace their roots to India through an ancestor who would have entered Mauritius through the 'Apravasi Ghat'.

The site of the Apravasi Ghat was chosen by the Colonial British authorities for sheltering the immigrant workers after the long ship voyage.

The place also served as an immigration office which was responsible for the keeping of immigration registers, delivery of tickets to old and new immigrants, setting of taxes and other dues required from them, and the confirmation of Indian Marriage Certificates.

Now described as the "gateway of the Indian diaspora in Mauritius", the depot used to maintain a register of names, pen sketches/photograph and place of origin of every immigrant.

Most persons of Indian origin are able to trace their ancestors because of these records.

The visit of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to this site in 1970 and other Indian dignitaries over the years has given a new dimension to this heritage site.

The ghat, long called Coolie Ghat, was renamed 'Apravasi Ghat' in 2001 following a legislation pushed by Prime Minister Paul Berenger.

The Ghat was proclaimed a National Monument in 1987 as it forms part of the cultural heritage of Mauritius.

Since then, the Government of Mauritius has approved a plan for the restoration and development of the 'Apravasi Ghat' so as to pay tribute to the memory of the Indian indentured labourers.

The Government is also contemplating the possibility of initiating an "Indentured Labour Route" Project.

This is being done in collaboration with the Government of India on the same lines as the UNESCO's project known as "The Slave Route".

This will shed further light on each aspect of the massive movement of Indian emigration overseas.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 12:05 IST