From 1834 to1918, the British colonial government sent over a million indentured workers to 19 different plantation colonies. They were called 'Coolies', a racist slur first used by European colonizers and later by hostile indigenous communities.

They left a long, long voyage of the ocean, they called "Kaala Pani" or 'Black Waters'. Those that survived the long and harsh voyage arrived in their new land, only to find harsh and deplorable living conditions.

By the end of the 19th century, as debates around equality and freedom started shaping, public opinion in India and abroad, the indentured labour system lost the official approval of the colonial government. In the West, many opposed it for being another form of slavery. In India, leaders like Gandhi attacked the system for being unjust and exploitative. Finally in 1916, the British reversed their position and the system was outlawed in India.