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Aftershocks

‘Aftershocks - The Rough Guide to Democracy’, a film by Rakesh Sharma, specifically deals with the issues concerned with lignite mining in Kutchh. The film has won the Le Prix de la Presse politique award for the best documentary film at the 16th Fribourg International film festival in Switzerland (March 2002) as well as other international awards.

On January 26, 2001, Kutchh (Gujarat, India) was devastated by a massive earthquake which took over 20,000 lives and destroyed tens of thousands of homes in Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar, Bhachau and other areas. This film is set in Julrai and Umarsar, two villages in Lakhpat, near the India-Pakistan border, close to the Gujarat coast. Umarsar is an upper caste Durbar village, while Julrai's entire population comprises low class Rabbaris, semi-nomadic shepherds, who began to settle down and form 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 (GMDC) 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 corporates, 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 on March 26, 2001, the camera captures a 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 captures the ground-realities of democracy as exemplified in its smallest unit - the Indian village.

This 68-minute film records dialogue in Kutchhi, Gujarati, Hindi and English with English subtitles.
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