Tue, 16 Jul 2019

Twenty-two tons of garbage. That is the aftermath of two Gupta family weddings in an ecologically sensitive area in the Indian province of Uttrakhand, says international media reports.

The wedding of Ajay Gupta's son, Suryakant, was celebrated from June 18 to 20, and Atul Gupta's son Shashank's wedding from June 20 to 22 in Auli, a ski resort in the Himalayas.

In true Gupta style, local politicians and celebrities attended the lavish celebrations, including Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. The chief minister is equivalent to what in South Africa would be a premier.

According to a report by India Today, Rawat blessed the newlyweds and thanked the Guptas for choosing Auli as the venue for their sons' weddings as it would promote the area as a wedding destination, boosting tourism.

However, several Indian news sources reported that local authorities had to deal with cleaning up the waste and garbage left in the Guptas' wake.

Gulf News and the Financial Express reported that 22 tons of waste had been collected from the wedding site between Sunday and Monday. The municipality had to bring in seven to eight trucks for the purpose, officials said. Municipal officials expect the clean-up to be completed by Sunday.

The municipality has not reported that the wedding caused any environmental damage.

Helicopters banned

The Uttarakhand High Court banned the use of helicopters and the construction of a helipad shortly before the weddings. It also ordered the state pollution control board to monitor them.

The judgment follows what is called public interest litigation in the Indian judicial system, which was brought by a resident of Kashipur, Rakshit Joshi. He argued that the lavish weddings would damage the environment, while the state would be failing to uphold earlier court directives to protect it.

READ MORE: Indian court grounds Gupta wedding helicopters

Last year, Indian tax authorities attached at least 31 properties belonging to the Guptas.

The Gupta brothers first raised South African eyebrows when in 2013 a private plane carrying about 200 guests to the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia were allowed to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base, with blue light brigades whisking the guests to Sun City. Several ministers and political figures attended the wedding.

As the Guptas' hold on the South African state was exposed, it emerged that public money was used to fund the extravagant Sun City wedding.

The #GuptaLeaks detailed the intricacies of how R30m from the provincial government-funded Estina dairy project in the Free State was laundered through a series of bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates to pay for the wedding.

Eight people, including the bride's brother, Varun Gupta, were charged in relation to the Estina case last year, but the charges were provisionally withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority in November.

Last month, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria found Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report on the Estina dairy farm project to be unconstitutional and set it aside on the grounds that she failed in her duties to investigate and report on the controversial project.

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