Pre-Independence era slavery in India

The British government sanctioned certain legislation regarding slavery but those legislations were narrow in nature and could only impose restriction on slave trade. The legislation affirmed the same as illicit and unlawful and imposed punishment for the offenders. The attempt made by the British government was unsuccessful in bringing change in the system. In view of the intensification of the problem, the Britishers appointed the First Indian Law Commission in 1835 which was headed by Lord Macaulay. The Commission made a Draft Act which stated bodily injury on a slave as a punishable offence. However, the government of India rejected the proposal and showed equal interest in improving the conditions of the slaves as well as the protection of the interest of the masters who were wholly blameworthy for the continuation of this system.

The indefatigable attempt of the law commission resulted in the formation of Anti-Slavery Report in 1841. The commission recommended measures to check abuse but it neglected abolition of slavery. Since no slave could give evidence against their master so the recommendation only remained on the paper. Thence, it may be perceived that the law commission did not concentrate on abolition of slavery and their effort was merely for the prevention of the evils of slavery. It can also be inferred that the commission expected that the custom would eventually die with passage of time.

Although the commission failed to settle the issue, it displayed the conditions of those people. The commission again in 1843 despite persistent opposition brought an enactment for abolition of slavery in any form. The enactment was named as “The Anti-Slavery Legislation of 1843”. It helped in the regulation of slaves within the territories of the East India Company. This enactment banned the sale of slaves and barred the slave owners from bringing any matter in a court of law. Though the enactment did not abolish slavery entirely but it surely improved the conditions of the slaves. At the same time, the supply of indentured labour from India to British colonies emerged which lasted for more than 100 years.

The government facilitated indentured immigration by adopting a legal measure which in turn transformed India into an open market for the supply of cheap labour to various parts of British colonies. These abhorrent practices approbated by law contributed in the continuation of this system for a longer period of time.

Thus, we observed that over a period of two centuries certain legislative measures were taken to scrap the system of forced labour. Even though the colonial policies reflected the aspiration to improve the conditions of slaves and bonded labour in India, their main aim was to set up a trade monopoly in the country and to eventually become the master of our destiny. It will not be an overstatement to infer that British ascendancy over India practically prompted enslavement of the entire population of this country.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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