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Film documents the ruin of Bellary

Staff Reporter

Paranjoy Thakurta makes a searing point of an unholy nexus

— FILE PHOTO

RED EARTH:Child labour is rampant here. Families have been displaced by mining in this mineral-rich belt, which was once a verdant area.

BANGALORE: It's a diverse range of voices that this documentary film captures. From throwing light on various environmental and livelihood issues that plague the people of the Bellary belt in north Karnataka and Anantpur in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to presenting a comprehensive picture of the money, politics and greed that have converged to create a scandal of this scale; the over two-hour documentary film, Blood and Iron, takes a journalistic look at the crisis in Bellary.

The protagonists here are the Reddy brothers — Karunakara, Somashekhar and Janardhan — along with B. Sriramulu from the Bharatiya Janata Party, backed by a long list of powerful politicians who have allegedly made it possible to sustain illegal mining in the State.

Using the evocative medium of short films with ease, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta's latest offering is engaging. Without losing sight of the human face of this murky political scandal, the film takes the audience through the sequence of events and compromises that has led to the plundering of minerals in the iron ore-rich areas of Bellary.

The strains of folk music — using artistes from the Gaddar-led Jana Natya Mandali and folk groups — help capture the angst of the local people.

It uses several news clippings, interviews with prominent personalities, academics and political activists to outline how mining has ruined the once-verdant Bellary. It makes a chilling point about the nexus among criminals, businessmen and politicians that drives, even sustains, illegal mining.

Interviews with whistleblowers who have been targeted or smaller miners who have spoken out against the Reddy brothers illustrate the extent of muscle power used by the powerful lobby to quell all opposition.

Stories of farmers who have been left with non-arable land or find their land grabbed by these mining overlords strike a chord with the audience.

Child labour

Child labour too is rampant in these areas, where malnutrition rates are high and entire families and villages have been displaced and deprived of their source of livelihood, the film informs.

This is reflected in mass media too, Mr. Thakurta points out as he contrasts the lush landscapes depicted in the Kannada films of the 1980s to a recent blockbuster that portrays Bellary as a hotbed of criminal activity.

Political parties' role

The film explores the active role played by the BJP in Karnataka, represented mainly by the Reddy brothers, and the Indian National Congress led by Jaganmohan Reddy, son of late Chief Minister Y. Rajashekara Reddy, on the other side of the border in Andhra Pradesh. It also suggests a link between the rise of the BJP in north Karnataka and the influence of the mining lobby which helped fund the party.  

Mr. Thakurta has previously reported on the environmental crisis in Bellary due to uncontrolled mining. A journalist who has been in the profession for over two decades, he has worked in both print and television media.

For DVDs of the film, email paranjoy@hotmail.com

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