The Vagrant Depot is an important lieu de memoire which bears testimony to the trials, tribulations, and the struggles of more than 60,000 indentured and non-indentured labourers who were imprisoned there between 1864 and 1886 and who have greatly contributed to modernise Mauritius.
This statement was made by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, yesterday at a wreath laying ceremony held at the Vagrant Depot Heritage Site at Grand River North West to commemorate the 154th anniversary of the opening of the Vagrant Depot. Many eminent personalities including the Private Parliamentary Secretary, Mrs Monty, and the Lord Mayor of the Municipality of Port Louis, Mr D. Laurent were also present.
Minister Roopun lauded the hard work of the vagrants who contributed to the construction of roads, bridges, and public buildings. The Depot, he pointed out stands as a constant reminder of the determination, hard work and sacrifices of the vagrants to the oppressive labour laws of the colonial rule, which were meant to regulate their working and living conditions.
He underlined that the Vagrant Depot was opened on 23rd February 1864 and that this heritage site is tangibly linked with the lives of the Indian and non-Indian labourers who struggled to carve a place for themselves in a highly controlled and stratified Mauritian colonial society. Hence, it is our foremost duty to pay tribute to the sacrifices and tears of the vagrants and to preserve the authenticity of this site, he added.
The Chairman of the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, Mr D. Dhuny highlighted that the ceremony also marks the 60th anniversary of the Depot since it has been decreed as a National Monument and is considered as the second most important site after the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage site, amongst others. In order to preserve this cultural heritage, he made an appeal to all stakeholders to collaborate closely in terms of materials, expertise and manpower to maintain and protect the Depot so that it serves as a reminder of the Mauritian’s history and a site of visit to the population.
For his part, the Lord Mayor paid homage to the vagrants for their hard work and sacrifices which has helped to transform Mauritius into a prosperous country. He also highlighted that the Depot represents a tangible symbol of oppression and resistance of the vagrants in the colonial rule.
The Vagrant Depot
The Vagrant Depot of Grand River North West is located on the Pointe aux Sables Road and extends over an area of almost two acres. It is one of the most important historical and heritage sites closely linked with the history of the Indians in Mauritius during the nineteenth century. For most of the 1800s, it has served as a place of incarceration for individuals who were brought from the Indian subcontinent to British Mauritius such as the convicts and indentured and non-indentured labourers.
Source: Government of Mauritius