The Rs 200-crore weddings hosted by South Africa’s controversial Gupta family in Auli came to an end after five days of grand celebrations on Saturday. The hill station is now left with a challenging task of cleaning up the mountain of garbage. For the two high-profile weddings, two grand wedding stages and a glasshouse with floral arrangements from Switzerland had been set up amidst the snow-peaked mountains.
The weddings were of Suryakant and Shashank Gupta, who are the sons of Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta respectively. The controversial Gupta family is based in South Africa and is known from its close ties with the contry’s former president Jacob Zuma. Zuma resigned as the President of South Africa on February 15 over corruption scandals.
The Gupta brothers have often been accused of using their political influence in South Africa to advance their business interests, but they have denied any wrongdoing.
Suryakant married Delhi-based diamond merchant’s daughter on Thursday while Shashank tied the knot with the daughter of a Dubai-based businessman on Saturday.
Anil Kumar who is one of the two supervisors of the Nagar Palika Parishad of Joshimath says that his team of 20 men have to deal with the waste that includes leftover petals, plastic covers, foam and food.
Parishad chairman Shailendra Singh Pawar told the Indian Express that wet and dry waste collected every day from all of Joshimath is around 20 quintal. “Since the Gupta weddings, the waste has surpassed 40 quintals daily and most of it is from the wedding venue,” Pawar added.
Uttarakhand: Work underway by Municipal Corporation to clean up the garbage and waste left behind in Auli after the marriage of members of the Gupta family of South Africa, at the hill station held between 18 to 22 June. pic.twitter.com/lsIEnaOLqY
— ANI (@ANI) June 23, 2019
The Parishad chairman says that normally only four workers are required across Auli as the hill station is not very populated and does not have many tourists.
On Saturday during the wedding of Shashank Gupta, hundreds of locals from nearby villages thronged the venue to watch the wedding.
“It’s one-of-a-kind event but once they leave, who’ll clean up the mess? They’ve turned the hill into a city,” said 55-year-old Durga Devi who had come from Parsari village.
The grand weddings
The weddings saw performances by singers such as Kailash Kher, Badshah, Javed Ali, Aastha Gill and Shruti Pathak, along with actors Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra.
Moreover, a two-hour yoga session was also conducted by Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev which was also attended by their guests actor Karanvir Vohra, his wife TeeJay and the jawans of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who also attended the Gupta wedding on Saturday, said that the high–profile event had turned the alpine meadow into a “tourist destination”.
On June 17, the Uttarakhand High Court heavily criticised the state government for allowing the high-profile wedding in the ecologically fragile region. On June 18, the court issued an order that called for the “prohibition of the use of plastic, thermocol bags, glasses, plates, cups, saucers”.
Swati Bhadoriya, Chamoli District Magistrate has set up a team of 13 officials from different departments to assess whether the high court directions were followed. On June 25, Bhadoriya will oversee a meeting with the 13 officials to evaluate the violations and impact of the weddings on Auli. She also revealed that a daily log was being maintained of everything that has been used by the event management company during the wedding.
A worker at the wedding told The Indian Express that there was “so much plastic” at the venue as all the food and other items which came from Delhi or around were in plastic wrappings. “The wind makes it harder to control the plastic… it keeps flying away. It’s distressing,” added the worker.
The worry for locals too is the plastic which their livestock could consume.
“My cows graze in the area… they will eat that plastic now like city cows,” a local who lives in a village a few kilometres from the wedding venue, said.