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Watch: At Delhi’s Yamuna ghats, how idol immersion turns into a treasure hunt

Child scavengers, treasure hunters and MCD’s clean-up teams throng Delhi’s Yamuna ghats during the immersion period. Some look for remains of idols for resale and reuse, others hunt for jewellery and coins in the debris

delhi Updated: Oct 03, 2017 12:49 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Durga Puja,Puja immersion
Workers of flood control departement take out Durga idols from Yamuna after immersions on Vijay Dashmi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

After more than four hours in the waist-deep polluted waters of the Yamuna, 16-year-old Suraj Das was still in no mood to call it a day.

Suraj had cycled 10km to Kudesia Ghat in Kashmere Gate on Monday to hunt for the choicest remains of idols of goddess Durga that were immersed in the river on Vijaya Dashami. Covered in heaps of puja materials and hundreds of broken idols, ghats across the city and the Yamuna bear a devastated look.

By noon, Das and his 12-year-old friend Tushar had collected one full sack of “astras”, weapons that are added to the idols of Gods and Goddesses as well as the devil.

“These are made out of tin. One sack of astras will fetch me Rs 100. My target for today is to collect three bags of these,” said Das who is enrolled in a government school near his house — a slum cluster in New Seemapuri.

He has been coming to this ghat for nearly a decade now, and his eyes brightened as he recalled his best find so far. “They were two silver coins of Laxmi and Ganesh. I am never going to sell those. I found them two years ago, after Durga Puja,” Das said.

A local dismantles idols that were immersed in Yamuna after culmination of Durga Puja. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Meanwhile, Tushar made friends with child scavengers who had organised themselves into groups. One team was looking for coconuts, and another for hair and valuable clothes; but coins and notes were to be kept by whoever finds them.

All of them worked surreptitiously wary of the groups of young boys hired by Delhi government’s flood and irrigation department to fish all the debris from the festivities out of the river.

“We pull out all the debris out of the river and keep it on the bank. It is the MCD’s job to collect and take it away from here. We are working here on a national holiday, but MCD tippers did not come,” said an official of the flood department.

While agencies responsible for cleaning up the mess continued with the blame-game, ragpickers cleaned the river by collecting wood, straw and, of course, money. “Some sell the debris, while others use it to strengthen their huts. Most of the wood is kept for the winters as the rate goes up during that time,” said a 58-year old Allauddin who also engages in farming along the river bank.

Yamuna bank is littered with idols and waste material after the Durga Puja immersions. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

A few lucky ones find expensive sarees or designer chadars that are offered to Goddess Durga during the pujas. “These clothes are dried and washed, then sold. But, clothes on small-sized idols that are bought by people for pujas at home are more common and usually fetch around Rs 20,” said Tika Ram, who stays below the Loha Pul (Iron Bridge). “Earthen pots are a big treasure as they are used to store monetary offerings during pujas. No pot goes without being fished out from the river. I have collected Rs 60 today,” he added.

Workers from flood control department remove idols from the riverbed. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

At the Kalindi Kunj ghat, Roshan Kumar jumped with joy after he found a silver bracelet which loosely hung from his wrist. “My friend, Rohit had got a gold chain last time. We are even now,” he said.

Rohit, on the other hand, was busy peeling the straws from coconuts which they sell for Rs 10-15 in the market.

As another truck of devotees and idols arrived at the ghat, the scavengers positioned themselves in the river yet again and waited for the Gods to come.

First Published: Oct 03, 2017 12:29 IST