An extravagant Rs 200-crore wedding of South Africa-based business tycoons Gupta Brothers’ son was organised in Auli. The celebrations lasted five days. Several activists and environmentalists had raised concerns over the impact it may have on the ecology, given the fact that it is an eco-sensitive zone.
Reports that have emerged after the wedding seem to substantiate those fears. Nagar Palika Parishad of Joshimath chairman Shailendra Singh Rawat told The Indian Express that daily garbage output from all of Joshimath is about 20 Quintals. However, after the wedding, the output has exceeded beyond 40 Quintals, mostly from the wedding venue.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had earlier dismissed these fears, saying that this wedding would help enhance the state’s image as a popular wedding destination. The Uttarakhand high court had also pulled up the ruling government. The court had asked the Gupta family to deposit Rs 3 crore as security money, for restoration work in cases of any environmental damage done.
200 Cr Wedding In Auli
The wedding was of the two sons of the Gupta Brothers. Gupta brothers are NRI businessmen based out of South Africa. The extravagant Rs 200 crore wedding was conducted at a ski resort in Auli.
The wedding celebration of Suryakant, son of Ajay Gupta with Kritika Singhal, daughter of Suresh Singhal, a Delhi-based diamond merchant, was scheduled Auli from June 18 to 20. The marriage of Atul Gupta’s son Shashank took place between June 20 and 22 with Shivangi Jalan, daughter of Dubai-based businessman Vishal Jalan.
Uttarakhand CM Rawat had told the reporters that events like these would help in promoting the state as a wedding destination. He reportedly said that Auli is not a meadow or a bugyal, ‘so fears about ecological harms are unnecessary’.
Uttarakhand based activist-environmentalist and lawyer, Abhijay Negi while speaking to The Logical Indian said, “Several places in Uttarakhand are already commercialised and they have lost their natural essence. But there are few areas which are untouched. There are green meadows, which are comparable to Scottish highlands lie in upper Garhwal which starts from Auli. At this time of the year, Auli particularly has a very picturesque view. While Uttarakhand is natural resource rich, but when it comes to monetary resource, it is quite deprived.”
He opines that the state administration lacks the vision when it comes to environmental issues of the state, “Our policymakers are poor planners. Most of the revenue is generated just out of liquor sale and out of mining. CM is of the view that the wedding must not be stopped as it would help build the image of the state as a wedding destination. Now all of this was regulated and we were looking at sustainable celebrations, it is most welcome. But in reality, this is not the case because we have no strong policy in place and a vision in terms of environmental protection in this regard. A lot of rules were bent to give permission to this wedding which will now be attended by several big shots.”
The district administration maintains that the permission to hold the wedding is being done with ‘full compliance’ with the Uttarakhand High court orders.
Gupta Brothers’ themselves are controversial figures. They are known to be close to former South African President Jacob Zuma. The Gupta Brothers in the past courted controversy during a wedding ceremony in the family for which a military airport was sanctioned for bringing in the guests. This issue had then snowballed into a major political issue in South Africa against the then President Zuma.
Court Pulls Up State Govt
Acting on a petition filed by lawyer-activist Advocate Rakshit Joshi earlier this month, Uttarakhand High Court posed tough questions to the state government. A High Court Bench comprising of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma asked, “Who provided the chopper landing permission to the Gupta family in Auli?”
While the wedding was allowed by the High Court, it asked the Gupta family to submit Rs 3 crore as security lest any ecological damage should happen. The first instalment of Rs 1.5 crore was to be submitted by June 21.
The court also asked the Chamoli district authorities and the state Pollution Control Board to monitor the wedding.
Advocate Joshi who filed the PIL in the Court, while speaking to The Logical Indian, said, “I had filed the petition because there is this geographical region called the meadow. These are special geographical entities, which are grasslands in the hill. Auli is especially known for its meadows. Apart from that, it is the only Olympic skiing destination in the whole of South Asia. So, this wedding which is being held at such a mass scale clearly violates the High Court judgement.”
“A lot of things culminated in hearing and finally the court was of the view that they have already disturbed the area by erecting tents and carrying out construction, which cannot be undone. So the court said that the challenges that laid ahead were first to mitigate and rehabilitate the damaged areas. The court is yet to give a verdict on whether the wedding area is a meadow or not. Right now the government has submitted that meadow is 4 km away from the wedding location. The Guptas were asked to reveal the number of heaters being used, the number of guests that are being expected. So after the details were provided, the court asked the local authorities to supervise the wedding. They were also asked to deposit Rs 3 crore,” Joshi further added.
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