KGF: History and Present 2 - Interviews
Director: Janaki Nair; Cinematographer: R V Ramani
Duration: 00:32:38; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 37.408; Saturation: 0.136; Lightness: 0.303; Volume: 0.092; Cuts per Minute: 9.069; Words per Minute: 117.039
Summary: Janaki Nair interviews three individuals living in Kolar, including a Marwadi and Anglo Indian about the role of their communities and their role in relation to trade union, workers and leftist politics in Kolar. The interviewees also show photographs of important meetings that took place at the turn of independence, between Congress and local leaders. The role of the local Schedule Caste Federation is also discussed.
Kolar Gold Field, Kolar District, Karnataka
J. Nair: None of the Marwadi families are involved?
No no, only one family is there in ... . But they are quite good in numbers, Marwadi families, only one family I knew, there may be others.
J. Nair: And have you been involved with the mine activities, like when there was a proposal to nationalise, were you involved at that time?
Yes, I opposed that nationalisation at that time itself. Because I said this is a thing in which the investment is bad. You do not know when the gold will disappear. It is better to risk the money on a horse race, and if you've put money on all the ten horses, then at least one will win and you'll get the money. But in the mines it is no use, if you want to fight the Britishers (the main cause is to fight the Britishers, to remove them with nationalisation), you open some factories round about, pay them little more, so that either the Britishers will go, or they will start paying more to the labourers. And I was at that time troubled by that, when the Chief Minister who was there, K Hanumanthaiah, who was very particular about nationalisation. But I told them it is a waste, the money you invest is a waste. The best way to compete with these people is to start some factories around about.
J. Nair: Have any Marwadi families started any factories around KGF?
Very small factories, but they were not successful. About five ten labourers, you can't call a factory.
J. Nair: So by and large they are still doing business?
J. Nair: Because otherwise most people here don't have the capital to start any factories.
J. Nair: What is your relationship to the current state of affairs now? Are the Marwadis opposing the closure of the mines now, as a community?
You see, because it is the domination of the labour and labour leaders. When they come in large numbers, they say the mines are there, we will also be there. So all will join with this, and who wants to take the wrath of labourers? The labour leaders will say, "That man has opposed the closure of mines, so they will throw stones, they will do all this, so it is more of a fear, not of the fear conscience.
J. Nair: Do you have of those photographs, you found them?
We will go to the house, we will take them.
J. Nair: Shall we come for about fiteen minutes or so? To your house?
Definitely, for us it will be a .... business will go down, economic activity will come down, property value will come down. It's already come down. A lot of unemployed people are here, unemployed youth, what will they do?
J.Nair: You were just mentioning that there are other possibilities for people like you.
For us it's ok, we may shift from here, do something else somewhere, some backing is there for us, some hope is there at least. What will happen to people who are there living in the mines, who are very poor? They do not have money to go and invest anywhere.
J.Nair: So have you joined with any programme that is attempting to keep the mines open?
See it was there previously, Save KGF Committee was there, even now there is some activity going on, my father has joined that. And moreover, you see, the politicians here are only interested in saying "You don't close the mines". That is not possible, because mines have got some fixed time of life, once the reserves are exhausted they have to be closed. Any mining industry will have a life span, once that is exhausted that has to be closed. Instead of asking not to close the mines, they can ask for alternative industries, development activities that can create employement. Even mines they can think of it but that will not be a permanent solution, how long is the government going to pump money without any returns?
J.Nair: These people are your employees?
No they are customers, that is our employee, and one more man has not come today, he is on holiday, he's a very old employee.
J.Nair: And they are children of the mine workers?
Ya he is residing here.
J.Nair: He's a child of a mine worker? He's from mining area?
His brother is working in the mines. (Tamil) Was your father also a mine worker?
Employee: Yes, my brother is doing my father's job.
His father was working, when his father expired his brother has got the job.
J.Nair: Has he taken VRS?
Employee: No, he retired and has expired also.
J. Nair: Your father?
Employee: Yes my father. my brother just started service.
Children of the employees used to get the employment as a matter of right in those days, it is not like that now.
This picture was taken at the government guest house where the Law Minister Dr. Ambedkar was staying for his visit to KGF. I and my wife were there to look after his arrangements and we had some talks about it. Then he came to my house also, and he has seen a Harijan cook in our house, and he said "You are not like other northern Indians, who just talk about Harijans but they don't do anything. You have got a Harijan cook". I said "I have no difference in humanity, I think that all the people are the same".
J. Nair: You also argued with him about the constitution?
Everybody was praising and I kept quiet about the constitution. Then he asked me, "Why bapna? Why don't you say something?" I said "Constitution doesn't help the poor people, it will only help the rich people". He said "Can you quote an instance?". I said "See what Hitler has done, in 1933-39 he brought a constitution, a law with only three lines, where even ordinary people can understand and argue his case. Now all rich people can get eminent lawyers and there are always loopholes in your constitution," I said. Yes, he agreed he said.
J. Nair: So when he came to KGF, did he go around the area? Did he visit parts of KGF?
Not all around, some places yes.
J. Nair: How long was he here for?
J. Nair: Just for one day?
J. Nair: So was there a reception organised by the local Sscheduled Caste Federation?
All the labour leaders, and the Harijan leaders, they all came there, to the bungalow. He even abused those people saying "What are you doing? Simply talking," he said, "You go and do some social work for these people, like Mrs. Bapna is doing, because he has seen the welfare work you see. You do some work, instead of only talking politics it is better you do some social work, give them bath, give them good clothes, education.
J. Nair: Ambedkar said this?
Ambedkar said. I'm remembering little by little, you see, because it is very old.
J. Nair: But before that, I want to ask one more question. I notice you are using the word Harijan. Do you remember one Mr JC Adimoolam? Adimoolam was here, he was also a labour leader.
He was more a Harijan leader than a labour leader.
J. Nair: At that time, there was a big controversy over the use of the word Harijan. And most of the people in this area rejected that term. Are you aware of this?
Yes, some people were against using this word because they wanted to use the word Scheduled Caste, so that from that they can get all the benefit.
J. Nair: But now there is a new word is being used, which is Dalit.
Some Dalit, so many things you see. It is all more ambition or what is called selfishness that wherever they get benefit they want to call themselves. I know some of the big Hindus call themselves Harijans and get benefits. And it is happening, it is human nature.
J. Nair: Can you tell me about this photograph?
This photograph was taken when I and Mr KC Reddy, who was the first Chief Minister, were enrolled as Congress member by Professor Ranga, the most eminent freedom fighter, who died very recently at the age of 95. He came here and enrolled us as Congress members in KGF.
J. Nair: So this is the picture of that enrollment?
This is a picture of that.
Ambedkar was there, but when the decision was taken Nijalingappa was there. Nijalingappa ... Coorg Railway Minister, later on he became the president of the State Trading Corporation. Nijalingappa, when he was the minister.
This is a picture taken when mines was handed over to the Central Government.
(Second person): No no, not like that, mines nationalisation was decided by K Hanumanthaiah, and by the time the thing could be taken over the Chief Minister had changed, Nijalingappa became the Chief Minister. So the actual takeover, even though it was decided by Hanumanthaiah, the takeover was in the period of Nijalingappa.
I remember an episode after that time. Mr Narayan, some big leader of Congress Working Committee, came here. He said "How is it, Bapna, it works out to only 68 lakh rupees?". "According to the rationalisation the share price worked out to only 68 lakh rupees, how is it that they are paying 1.25 crores? Why has the amount gone up?" I said "It has gone up because of that TT Krishnamachari, who got a bad name only because of that and he was removed at that time. I said according to the share prices they could have got it for only 68 lakhs but some interference has gone and he has boosted that to 1.25, and it has paid 1.25 crores and taken the mines.
J. Nair: This is to John Taylor?
To John Taylor.
J. Nair: Krishnamachari was responsible for the raising of the price?
For raising it. Because the commission has come and they enquired of me, "How is it, you know all these things...?"
J. Nair: So even the corruption...
That is why TT Krishnamachari was removed from his ... (Second person): Corruption was there, but I don't think it was to this extent, it was purely ... (1st interviewee): Not corruption, but purely because he was in relation with Britishers at that time. He was the agent for ... and Corporis(?) and all those things you see, so he used to get benefit from other way, not in taking bribe but in other ways.
(Other person): If you think like that, even when Britishers were there, corruption was there.
(Third person): Two other reasons were there. Because at that time, Nehru was there. All equipment including ropes and nets were purchased in England, especially the rope. We are having the world's longest rope, that is one rope is running 7100 feet plus the drum end and cage end is another 300 metres.
J. Nair: This is steel rope?
Yes steel rope, that is 178. and Henry's it was 118, and Golconda's is it .... It is all ropes, cold run ropes, not hot ropes. These cold run ropes were 5000 feet and 7100 feet and 5800 feet, and Edgars, 5100 feet was specially made by Latch and Batchelor of India. And all the equipments which were running except three shafts or four shafts of mine ... they're all 25 cycles. Nowhere in the world today 25 cycles is used. Now people have gone to 75 cycles, Japan and Australia have gone to 100 cycles.
J. Nair: So how does that account for the increased price that was paid to the British?
Because you have to get all materials from there you know, all our replacement materials, ropes, even ... you must have immunity items. For two hoists they have to put some spare ropes, these ropes are 40 or 50 lakhs nowadays, those days it may be 1 or 2 lakhs.
J. Nair: But I still don't understand the connection with paying a higher price.
Because they have retained the Britishers after nationalisation for nearly 14 years in India, some of them in KGF and some of them in Delhi, to purchase all those things. So they want to keep those people in good books. First idea. Second thing, the metallurgical point of the chemicals and Sodium Cyanide was only purchased from Canada. Nobody was making that in India. Without Sodium Cyanide no gold can be extracted, Sodium Cyanide only dissolves the metal by smelting. So these things, the Britishers' help was required for these things. At that time, Australia, Canada, Africa, India, these were governed by these John Taylor...
So they had made equipments in such a way that these four countries were separate from England, so English people should stay in KGF to bring the materal, that was the reason. So they were kept in KGF, metallurgists as well as mining people. And there was no mining college except Dunbar at that time. So the qualified people only came from England all the time. And they taught us in the beginning, then afterwards only the colleges started. So their help was required, and so Jawaharlal Nehru, at that time, he was the Prime Minister, he has given instructions to these people not...
(Interview with Mr Antony, member of the Angloindian community in KGF)
(Interview with Mr Antony, member of the Angloindian community in KGF)
Mr Richards is there, he was our president.
J. Nair: William Richards?
Ya, William Richards, I'm standing at the back there.
J. Nair: Oh my god, young, debonair and handsome. So you were in charge of this newspaper?
J. Nair: In what capacity?
As sub editor.
J. Nair: So can you tell me a little about your life in KGF Mr Anthony? How long you've been here and what work you did in the mines.
I worked as a telephone operator for about 33 years and then I left the mines and went away to Nagaland as a teacher, Headmaster cum Hostel Superintendent. I worked there for 25 years, and due to my eyesight, developing cataracts, I had to come back, have it removed, have some implants and go back. But four years have passed, and nothing has been done.
J. Nair: So you've come back to KGF?
J. Nair: This is where you grew up?
Yes, we were the very first people here in this Angloindian colony in 1936. There were only four houses then. And later, the Angloindians, domicile Europeans, Europeans and Burmese evacuees had all come and settled here, and the name still stands as Angloindian colony.
J. Nair: So it's grown since then? How many Angloindians are there in the area now?
Now there just a handful.
J. Nair: Can you give me a number?
Say 12 twelve families. in the Angloindian colony. This side of the road.
(Friend): This is completely colony, that too belongs to the colony area.
Ok then, shall we say 25?
J. Nair: I'm talking about community as a whole in KGF.
Oh, in KGF. Including BEML?
J. Nair: No, just here in KGF.
(Mrs. Antony): KGF is BEML.
After you called on me, I made a census. 380 members, about 70 families.
J. Nair: And you have been in this mines for a long period of time in this area. So you'll remember many things, what can you remember that's most striking about the past 50 years or so? Because at one time the British owned the mines, at another time there was a transfer of power.
It was an empire at that time, and during rock bursts and all, as I told you the other day, the Anglos were the first people to go and bring the people out. They didn't care about their own lives and when they had a drink and they started mucking and all that to retrieve these people, whether their legs were broken or something, just to save lives, the others, coolies as they used to called them, the labourers, used to say "No, sir, we will do it, there are people", but everyone worked together and sometimes people came out with their legs broken. But European doctors somehow fixed them in those days, and many of them were still alive. That day, when you were here, one card came no? That man was my tea boy and his daughter or something was postmistress, she gave us the card. So that fellow was my tea boy and he became an officer, he passed away.
J. Nair: What was the big change after the Britishers left, in your opinion?
So many changes for the worse. For the worse. Rowdyism and all has come in now, which was never ever thought of. The Angloindians are being neglected very badly. This was known as mini-England in those days, and after these people took over...
J. Nair: Which people?
The national government (the Karnataka government), no, Central Government, they suppressed us. So where we had bungalows, these people are bringing cows, all the cattle in their houses and all the cowdung you can see there before you can even enter the houses.
J. Nair: But in terms of the work situation, what was the big change in your opinion? Because you said you left the mines, you had to resign, can you tell me a bit about it?
Yes, because in those days, one fellow called me something, I told you that day, am not mentioning it here, I told you there, so I punched him and I tended my resignation and I walked out. And eventually I vacated my house also. But now, you see, every house in Maarikuppam where I lived, all broken down. It's a sin, a crying shame to watch those houses in Edgars, my god, no roads, cattle sheds, these are the people. And they're encouraging rowdyism.
J. Nair: You had mentioned something about the change in the officers accounting for decline in the mines itself?
Yes, they are the ones who want to close the mines, and some of them want to encroach on other property so that they can start something on their own. Like when we had, after John Taylors and Sons left, all these people took away the submersive pumps and all that...
J. Nair: Who are these people?
Officers, Brahmin officers, took away to the coffee estates in Coorg and all that, and when John Taylors were called back, Sidney Taylor came and said "Oh, where are those submersive pumps? Sorry, we can't manage, sorry, you find your own way". As for these people, when there's rock burst and somebody's trapped, you can't find them, they're hiding under their wives' petticoats. But whereas when the Europeans were there, if he was at a dance, he hears a rock burst or a fire in the mines, he'll come in his full dress suit, go down with Mr. Cave and others, Mr. Cave was given the title of MBE, Member of the British Empire by the queen, who has just left India.
J. Nair: So that was the biggest change? Decline according to you starts with nationalisation?
Yes, and after that, the pilferage with these people. They became multi-millionaires.
J. Nair: These are also the Brahmin officers?
Not only Brahmins, Scheduled Castes, and all the Angloindians have just got fed up and left the place.
J. Nair: Ok, you mentioned that the Angloindian community here had a special sports club and you gave me this souvenir. Can you tell me a little about this sports club which was started?
I was the guy who started it.
J. Nair: So speak about it, you can hold ... I want you to show the picture of Kenneth Powell. You can just talk a little bit about this Colonial Sports Club, about when you set up this club...
We felt that we should have a recreation club, sports club, for this Angloindian colony. We didn't want the children to go out and start smoking and go into ulterior ways. So it was my idea with a few other gentlemen like Mr Robert Simento and George MacIntyre. So I went around getting signatures and we started with 13 members and we called outselves Colonial Sports Club, because it was the colony, not because of British colonialism or any such thing. So with 13, then eventually from all the mines they started joining us, and we were a force to recknon with as far as sports were concerned.
Then, when I became the Secretary, we got ourselves affiliated ... so we started our Colonial Sports Club on 14th January 1953, and the first president was Mr. Robert Simento, and we were a force to reckon with in all sorts of games, cricket we specialised in, hockey, badminton, football and so on. And then I became the Secretary after some years, and during my tenure in office as Secretary, I had the privilege of having ourselves affiliated to the Mysore State Cricket Association as it was then called, not Karnataka then. Then, after Mr Simento passed away, Mrs Simento carried on for some tme until the silver jubilee was finished.
J. Nair: So who were the kinds of sports people associated with this club that became..?
Then Kenneth Powell was one of our cricketers, he was a fast bowler like myself, he broke so many fellows' jaws and so did I, and then eventually he left and he went away to ITI, Bangalore, and he took to athletics. And he was Asia's fastest man, and he represented India in the Tokyo Olympics. He's been all over the world, and he's brought souvenirs from all over the world. Of course now he's settled in Bangalore, Cooke Town.
J. Nair: Who else is from KGF in the sports field?
Noel Fernandes. He has gone away to Netherlands now, he's settled in Netherlands. Then we had the Bosy(?) family, George, Dudley, they were a whole family, Leslie Bosy had the triple jump record of all India, Burma and Ceylon in those days, and it was broken by another Angloindian from Bangalore, Andry(?) Rebello.
J. Nair: What about cricketers?
Cricketers, we had one guy who came from Vijaynagaram, along with the Maharajkumar of Vijaynagaram - Wren Naylor. And because he was a good sportsman, he was given a job. And he was an all-round sportsman, cricket, hockey, football, rugby. So due to sports we were encouraged, given officer's jobs in those days.
J. Nair: But you mentioned some current members, recent members of the Indian team who have come from KGF.
Ah, Roger Benny, he was born in that house at the side of St Jesus Church, where Prasanna was also born, because their fathers were the the health officers here at that time. But I couldn't get anything about Roger Benny. And another one who stayed there, Ignatius, who sings and married a female wrestler, Ernest Ignatius. He's a guy from here, he made a record and married a female wrestler, I don't know if you've heard that song.
J. Nair: It's from KGF is it?
He was two classes lower than me in the same school, he's gone to America now and he's cutting records, I don't know if he's using the same name. We've had so many other Anglos from here, like Cliff Richards and all that, from Lucknow, they've taken different names. If they have their own names, it doesn't sparkle, so they've...