Aftershocks -The Rough Guide to Democracy

Posted: 16 July 2002

Author Info: This 68-minute film has been shot and edited entirely on Digital Video-miniDV (Sony TRV900 and MatroxRT2500-Adobe Premiere). Languages spoken by the people include Kutchi, Gujarati, Hindi and English. The film has been subtitled in English. Enquiries about this film should be made to Rakesh Sharma at: actmedia@bom4.vsnl.net.in

This Indian film has won several awards since it was made in 2002 by the independent film maker, Rakesh Sharma. It tells the story of two Indian villages and their struggle to prevent being taken over by a mining company, following an earthquake.

On January 26, 2001, the Kutch region of Gujarat was devastated by a massive earthquake. Over 20,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar and Bhachau, the most severely affected areas, received attention from many international relief agencies and the world's media. This film is set in Julrai and Umarsar , two villages in Lakhpat, near the India Pakistan border, close to the Gujarat coast, and too far away from Bhuj to be in focus. Umarsar is an upper caste Durbar village, while Julrai's entire population comprises low class Rabbaris, semi-nomadic shepherds, who began to settle down into permanent villages only in the last couple of hundred years. The two villages have nothing in common except that both were almost totally destroyed during the quake and both are sitting on top of lignite reserves.

The Government-controlled Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation has a monopoly over any mining activity in the region. GMDC is likely to be privatised completely over the next few years; 26 per cent of its shares were sold to corporate firms, financial institutions and investors in 1997-98.

This film traces the story of GMDC's attempts to acquire the two villages. Eight weeks after the quake, the camera crew accidentally bumped into the GMDC acquisition survey team in Umarasar. Over the next few months, the film moves in and out of Julrai, Umarsar and the GMDC's existing lignite mines and probes the processes of displacement and resettlement.

Did GMDC succeed in exploiting the earthquake as a God-sent opportunity to hasten the acquisition? How did the obviously vulnerable quake-affected people of Julrai and Umarsar deal with it? What was the role of the state government machinery, entrusted with the welfare of its calamity- affected people? How have the existing mines and the power plant affected the lives of the people living nearby? Have the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislative taken note of this human impact before they paved the way for the new mines and the new power plant? The film is a hitchiker's journey through the labyrinthine universe of Democracy, as it exists in its lowest unit level - the Indian village.