HC Deb 03 November 1908 vol 195 cc966-7

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received any complaint as to the character and quantity of the diet being served out to British-Indians imprisoned in the Transvaal gaols for non-compliance with the registration law; whether the Director of Prisons has refused to substitute a diet of rice for that of mealie meal at present being served and cooked with animal fat abhorrent to the religious and caste scruples of British-Indians; whether the prisoners in question are hard labour prisoners who, in consequence of this action of the authorities, complain of being half starved; and whether he will use his influence with the Transvaal Government to see that these prisoners are treated humanely.


Yes, Sir. The Secretary of State has received complaints as to the diet of the Indians and has made telegraphic inquiry. The Governor states that the Indians arrested at Komati Poort on 29th September were provided with ample food, including rice, but that they preferred to obtain their own food outside, which they were allowed to do. Ministers further state that the ration of mealie meal which is used in the Transvaal prisons obtains in Natal and Cape Colony as far as Indian prisoners are concerned. It has figured in the Transvaal dietary scale since 1901, and is issued not only to Indians but to other Asiatics. Ministers do not state specifically whether the point regarding caste was considered, but as the scale has been in force for so long without, as far as I know, any protest, it must presumably have hitherto been accepted as free from objection on this score.