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World culture festival: Two weeks later, a look at who is cleaning up the Yamuna

In an official email, AOL had listed the agencies that would be involved in cleaning up the Yamuna floodplains, the festival venue, and said a team of volunteers would participate in the exercise.

Written by Kedar Nagarajan | New Delhi |
March 31, 2016 5:15:29 am
Wcf 759 The festival was held from March 11-13. Express

At the conclusion of the World Culture Festival, which faced much flak for the impact it would have on the Yamuna floodplains, founder of the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation — which organised the event — Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said AOL volunteers would be involved in the clean-up.

In an official email, AOL had listed the agencies that would be involved in cleaning up the Yamuna floodplains, the festival venue, and said a team of volunteers would participate in the exercise. Gautam Vig from AOL said, “The clean-up effort is going on. Volunteers have been coming in shifts. A lot of the plastic and food waste has been cleared by the volunteers. The event was a big one, therefore, it is unfair to expect that the clean-up will take place that soon. As is visible, most of it has been taken care of. The service is voluntary, so people cannot be made to come and clean up. But we have been actively taking part in the effort.”

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Two weeks after the event, The Indian Express visited the site and spoke to those on the ground involved in the clean-up process.

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Raj Kumar (38), truck driver:

Kumar is involved in transporting the pipes that formed part of the stage. He said he has been working at the site since the preparations for the event began. “I was part of the team that brought the pipes when the stage was being constructed. I have been coming to the site frequently. I spend about 8-9 hours a day on the job — loading the pipes into the truck, driving to Greater Noida, unloading them, putting them in the warehouse and then returning,” he said.

Bharat Singh Yadav (63), contract labourer:

Yadav has been living and working at the WCF site since December. He was involved in setting up the stage, and is now working on dismantling it. He doesn’t complain about the long hours of work or the pay, but about the mosquitoes he has to deal with at the venue. “The fact that we are not paid enough money for the work we do is not new. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for days. During the event, the lighting tests kept me awake. Now, it is the mosquitoes,” he said.

Rajesh Kumar (24), employee of Uttar Pradesh’s Public Works Department that built the pontoon bridge:

“I have been in and out of the venue since January. Our team is not that big; 20 to 25 workers are working on dismantling the bridge. More workers were involved during the construction of the bridge, but there have not been many after the event. I expected those of us still working to be paid more, but that has not happened. We are still paid the same Rs 500 a day, sometimes even less. After the event concluded, I was asked to clean up garbage as well. That is supposed to be done by others (volunteers), but they usually come for an hour or two and then leave,” he said.

Rohtak (35), contract worker:

He works for Third Wave, a company that supplied power generators for the event, and has been living at the site since the event ended.. “… in the few days since I have arrived, I have been asked to clear plastic waste from near the stage. The people with pink gloves (AOL volunteers) come once in a while, but they are never here for long. Only one or two of them remain,” he said.

Gajendra Singh (40), AOL volunteer:

Near the banks of the river, where a great deal of plastic and food waste is still strewn around the place, Gajendra Singh, a volunteer for AOL, was spotted cleaning up the trash and putting them into garbage bags. “Many of the volunteers have not been coming since Holi. I have been here regularly, before, during and after the event. The other volunteers usually come for a short while in the morning and leave. Some can come only when they have holidays. In the meantime, I have cleared a lot of waste from near the stage. I hope I can soon remove the plastic waste from near the river,” he said.

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