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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 13, New Delhi, March 19, 2016

‘Art of Living’ or ‘Art of Ecocide’?

Sunday 20 March 2016


by M.C. Pindwal

The world cultural event on the Yamuna river-bed took place from March 11 to 13, 2016. This happened at the cost of the poor living and surviving on the riverbed; it is they who have been badly affected by this so-called rich and mega cultural event, their jhuggies have been destroyed alongwith their crops in totality and they have been permanently displaced from their own land as the entire riverbed has been flattened and its fertility lost.

These farmers and labourers cultivate the land for their living and they have been using it for centuries to earn their livelihood; but now they have been ruthlessly removed and made rootless without any land as it has been destroyed by both the governments, that is, the Central Govern-ment and Delhi Government. This riverbed land was earlier protected and promoted by the Mughals and the British who were ruling India in the last few centuries before freedom in 1947 and it was legally allotted to these farmers; but it has now been snatched from them illegally for the event. The National Green Tribunal has already started uprooting these farmers by asking them not to grow anything on this riverbed land including various vegetables etc. since they were reportedly using heavy doses of chemical fertilisers for higher degree of production which spoils the quality of the Yamuna water. But this is not fully true as most of the Delhi gutter water goes into the Yamuna without treatment since Delhi discharges nearly two dozen nallahs into the river which substantially brings down its water quality. It is needless to blame the poor farmers for the poor quality of Yamuna water because these farmers hardly use any fertiliser since the flood waters in the Yamuna bring rich fertile soil from the higher reaches of the Himalayas thus boosting the production regularly and effortlessly. Therefore, most of the food products of the riverbed are originally organic in nature and content. The crops grown here mainly consist of wheat, gram, mustard and peas etc.

Both the governments have shown scant respect for these farmers and on the contrary they have displayed their destroying teeth and power in bulldozing the riverbed. Paying insufficient compensation to the aggrieved farmers to make their land available for the so-called world event is indead shocking since the large piece of land could have been made available to the Art of Living cultural event elsewhere instead of destroying the riverbed, its ecology and environment which are difficult to repair and the original water recharging capacity restored. This destruction has been done cunningly in the name of cleaning the river which is getting dirtier by the day despite the authorities’ claim to have cleaned it earlier as well. It seems that the cultural event was held to camouflage the real intention of the organisers. The event was more like an ‘art of ecocide’ than the ‘art of living’ as it was against the flora and fauna of the Yamuna riverbed.

I wonder how many governments in the world would allow the installation of deep-rooted tents in the bed of a holy river for a holier task, that is, the ‘art of living’. I think this kind of unholy alliance happens only in India.

The author is a retired IRS officer.

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