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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's fest at Yamuna: When Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal found a common cause against NGT's wishes

20 April, 2017 1:33 PM
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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's fest at Yamuna: When Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal found a common cause against NGT's wishes

While the NGT was against the idea of holding the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains in New Delhi last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal praised Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for organising such an event.

Between March 11 and 13 last year, the Art of Living of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar organised the World Culture Festival in the floodplains of the Yamuna in New Delhi.

The World Culture Festival was organised to celebrate the 35 years of existence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had red-flagged the event and gave its nod only after it became clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be attending the opening ceremony on March 11.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was to come for the closing ceremony.

Just two days ahead of the beginning of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival, the NGT allowed holding the event in the Yamuna floodplains.

The Art of Living was asked to develop the entire area as a biodiversity zone after the event. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's organisation was also asked to pay Rs 5 crore as green penalty or Environmental Compensation, as NGT put it, for conducting the even in an ecologically fragile region.

The NGT, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, also fined the Delhi Development Authority (under the central government) for granting permission without conduction inspections of the actual scale of activities and violating the tribunal's order.

The NGT further imposed a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on the Delhi Pollution Control Board (under the Delhi government) for not doing its statutory duty in the case of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival.

The Art of Living Foundation was asked not to release enzymes into the Yamuna river water. It sought an undertaking from the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Foundation that no further degradation of environment would be caused at the site of the World Culture Event.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attended the function and heaped lavish praise on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for organising the event.

The participation of the Prime Minister and Delhi Chief Minister looked surprising at that point of time as the NGT had expressed deep anguish over the entire event. Many thought that PM Modi and Delhi CM Kejriwal would stay away as the matter was related environment degradation in the heart of the national capital.

Speaking on the occasion, Modi had said, "India has the cultural heritage and richness which the whole world is looking for. We can fulfill those needs," adding, "But it can only happen, if we take pride in our heritage. If we keep cursing it, why the world will look at us?"

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said, "There is no pollution here, only culture (sanskriti). There is no harm to the environment, only smiles."Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra openly supported the Art of Living event on the Yamuna floodplains.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Kejriwal began his speech with the chant of 'Jai Gurudev!' amid roaring cheer from the audience.

"Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has joined both ends of the political spectrum on this dais. On his left, is the Centre (BJP) and to his right is the Delhi Government (AAP)," Kejriwal had said before seeking help from the spiritual guru to "clean up Yamuna".

After the World Culture Event concluded, an expert committee headed by Union Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar examined the floodplains of Yamuna.

The expert committee told the NGT that it would take 10 years to mitigate the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's World Culture Festival.

The expert committee estimated that approximately 300 acres on the right bank and about 120 acres on the left bank of Yamuna had been damaged ecologically.

"The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation," the expert committee report said.

Now, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has termed the report as biased. The NGT, the highest judicial body in the country on the environmental matters, is fuming.


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