Disciplining the Hill Tribes into Coolie Labour for Road Construction
This chapter underlines the significance of ‘forced labour’ in the context of road building in British Assam. In the wake of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826), the British resorted to both convict labour and tributary forms of local labour to build roads. Where local labour was unavailable, colonial officials had no compunction about using coercion and thus tapped into convict labour. In the long run, the labour-intensive nature of road projects in a difficult topography induced the Raj to seek the active collaboration of native princes and tribal chiefs. With such influential agents, the British sought to create a less coercive form of local labour market where coolies built roads in exchange for cash wages.
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