In Search of Gold

in Module
Published on: 16 April 2020

Basav Biradar

Basav Biradar is an independent writer, documentary filmmaker, teacher and researcher based in Bangalore, India. His first film Before The Third Bell was an official selection in the prestigious Segal Center Film Festival on Theatre and Performance 2018 in New York, USA. Basav has written travel essays, features on cinema, political reportage, features on heritage for various publications. He teaches courses on Indian Cinema and Modern Indian Theatre at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. He is currently working on a film on ultra-running and his first non-fiction book.

Established in 1880 by John Taylor and Sons, the gold mining operations in Kolar Gold Fields, were a highly profitable enterprise for their owners. The large scale of the operations meant setting up of massive mining infrastructure and residential townships which in turn required the labour of thousands of workers. The company recruited labour from the neighbouring Tamil and Telugu speaking regions of Madras Presidency. The mining population in KGF was tactfully inhabited and consisted of many races and ethnic groups. Europeans occupied the managerial positions, Anglo-Indians worked as supervisors, foremen consisted of Tamil and Telugu speaking people who occupied the lowest rung of jobs and the Punjabis who worked as security men.

In 1956, the mines were handed over to the state eventually leading to the formation of a public sector unit - Bharat Gold Mines Limited. But, the output of the mines had decreased over time and by 2001, operations were termed untenable and closed down. Over the period of 120 years of its existence, mining in KGF has yielded more than 800 tonnes of gold. The mining belt has also been a hotbed of workers' struggle. As the tussle between the government and the BGML employees co-operative continues even today, KGF has come to occupy a unique cultural, economic, social and political place in Karnataka.