WATCH: farmers recount how land was grabbed for #ArtOfLiving event

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary by hosting a World Cultural Festival from 11-13 March, which is expected to attract a crowd of more than 3.5 million people.

With, 25,000 artistes and 8,000 musicians performing at an spread over seven acres, the event is expected to set a Guinness World Record.

The problem is that arena is built on an ecologically sensitive zone - the banks of the river Yamuna flowing through the Capital.

Ever since preparations for the event started beside the river, environmentalists requested the foundation to shift its venue, to avoid irreparable ecological damage.

Read: Showers of blessings: rain trumps Sri Sri's World Culture Fest Day 1

The National Green Tribunal has levied an initial fine of Rs 5 crore, and set up a committee to look into the damages caused due to the event, and prescribe a final amount.

While 3.5 million people are expected to visit the floodplains of the Yamuna over these three days, hundreds of families who earn their livelihood as tenant farmers have their entire land, or parts of it, to make way for the construction of roads, parking lots and the erection of mobile towers.

Catch spoke to these farmers, who cultivate spinach, mustard, fenugreek leaves and cauliflower, among other things. While some of them lost 3 to 4 bighas of land, others lost about 30 bighas of land. Worse, they were given a mere Rs 4,000 per bigha of land lost. And they had no other choice - they could either take the compensation or face police action.

Text by Vishakh Unnikrishnan

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Shadab Moizee

Shadab Moizee @shadabmoizee