177/2013 Bishnupriya Gupta and Anand Swamy
Migration to tea plantations in Assam in the 19th century used indentured contracts. These contracts differed by conditions of harshness. Migration under the Special Act gained notoriety by giving tea planter the right of private arrest. Using a new set of migration by types of contract, the paper assesses if harsh terms of indenture discouraged labour flows. We find that regions using the harsh contract saw lower response to rise in the price of tea. Disaggregating by types of recruiter, we find that the response to market recruitment was high in all regions, but response to recruitment using community networks is statistically insignificant, suggesting that informational asymmetries may be an explanation for continuing migration despite concerns raised by the nationalist movement, social reformers and policy makers.
A New Economic History of Colonial India