St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will observe the 161st Anniversary of the first arrival of Indian indentured laborers to the main island (St. Vincent) on June 1st which is called Indian Arrival Day in the nation. The day has been commemorated annually since 2007with the government officially declaring June 1st as IAD. The Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs visited SVG to commemorate IAD on June 1, 2007 and held discussion with PM Dr. ralph Gonsalves.
SVG and India cooperated on various multilateral for a on issues of interest. Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines met Indian Prime Minister on September 24, 2015 in New York on the sidelines of UNGA meeting. The two leaders held talks on developing bilateral relations between the two countries. the two leaders also sat together at a climate event a few years ago. Indian PM has extended an invitation to PM Ralph Gonsalves to visit India.
India has been very kind to SVG supplying the nation with free vaccines and other medical assistance to combat Covid. The PM of SVG Mr. Ralph Gonsalves has showered glowing accolades on India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular for the aid received over the last several years. In addition, India has made available scholarships and other development assistance to SVG and other Caricom nations in various fields.
The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind will make a state visit to the island later this week at the invitation of the Prime Minister and government of SVG. The President is currently in Jamaica for a state visit. Indian also provided Covid assistance to Jamaica and all of the Caribbean nations.
The SVG Indian Heritage Foundation celebrated the 160th anniversary of the arrival of Indians to SVG on June 1st, 2021. A news report stated that the first ship, the TRAVANCORE, departed India with Indian laborers who made the journey to a country unknown, SVG, and which was to become their home although they were supposed to be repatriated to India after finishing their term of indenture. The reports notes that between 1861 and 1880 eight (8) ships brought 2,474 Indians to SVG to work and live on 23 estates. Just over half of these Indians remained in SVG, while about 1,100 returned to India. Many died on the journey to SVG. Reports indicated that as many as 20% of those who boarded ships perished during the perilous journey from various diseases and the cold weather.
The report states that SVG Indian Heritage Foundation was formalized and launched in 2006. In 2007 the Government of SVG, following the recommendation of then Minister of Culture Hon. Rene Baptiste, passed an Act of Parliament declaring June 1st Indian Arrival Day and October 7th Indian Heritage Day. Since then, the SVG Indian Heritage Foundation has celebrated IAD with re-enactments of the arrival of Indians on boats at Indian Bay, followed by rallies with cultural performances by artistes from India, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and local artistes. Indian foods have been served and Indian wear displayed at these functions.
IAD usually featured speeches by Dr. the Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of SVG, Dr. the Hon. Godwin Friday, Leader of the Opposition, and Miss Rene Baptiste, Former Minister of Culture, who is regarded as an unwavering supporter of the Foundation since its inception.
The report notes that “the SVG Indian Heritage Foundation and the entire Indian community in SVG are grateful to all who have in any way contributed to the success of all its functions and projects in the past and look forward to continue working with everyone towards the progress and development of all citizens”.
The Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs of India (MOIA), Vyalar Ravi, visited St. Vincent about a decade ago and was given a cordial welcome and grand reception by the government of PM Gonsalves. Ravi visited to strengthen relations between SVG and India and applaud the government for the recognition accorded to the Indian diaspora in SVG. Indo-Caribbean Ashook Ramsaran, who served as President of GOPIO, visited the island with the Minister. The Indian Embassy in Surinam is responsible for diplomatic relations with SVG, St. Lucia, and Grenada.
By Vishnu Bisram