NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday ruled that the Art of Living mega…
New Delhi: Delhi government’s water resource minister Kapil Mishra had written a letter to Union Defense Ministry to construct an extra pontoon bridge across river Yamuna for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘World Culture Festival’, it has emerged.
In the the letter accessed by ABP News, Kapil Mishra wrote “We have learnt that the Army is making 1 pontoon bridge for the festival. This is not adequare for safe movement of the large gathering of people hence we request the Army for building at least 1 more pontoon bridge over River Yamuna during The World Culture Festival,” he wrote in the letter.
In an attempt to corner the Centre, the Opposition on Wednesday raised the issue of the Indian Army’s involvement in the construction of pontoon bridges for the World Culture Festival being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation on the Yamuna floodplains.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury hit out at the Centre asking why was the Army being roped in for a private event following which the Opposition MPs raised slogans of ‘Army ka galat istemaal mat karo, raksha karo’.
In response, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is committed towards protecting environment and added that it would be wrong to doubt his commitment towards nature.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that he was concerned about the event as the Delhi Police had also raised security concerns.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, lashed back at the Opposition saying that if a matter is pending with Tribunal, ordinarily the chair doesn’t allow the issue to be raised in the House.
Speaking to the media after the House was adjourned, Yechury reiterated that the Army was being misused and added the entire matter is a violation on the Green Tribunal.
“How can the Indian Army be summoned to make arrangements for a private function? How are they violating the existing laws in this issue? How are they misusing the Army? The government owes an explanation for this,” he said.
Kapil Mishra 2-compressed
National Green Tribunal has accorded permission to yoga guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation to organise ‘World Cultural Festival’ on the bank of river Yamuna in New Delhi.
The NGT has fined the foundation of Rs 5 crore and has ordered to undo the damage done to environment and river Yamuna caused by the program. The tribunal said that the foundation would have to restore the ecology of the venue. A committee formed by the tribunal would review the area and submit a report a month after the World Cultural Festival to assess the damage caused.
The NGT, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, described the DPCC as “incompetent”, saying it had failed to discharge its duty.
The NGT ordered a study of the area to assess damage to the river’s flood plain after the event, following which, the tribunal said, the fine may be increased manifold. “You may have to pay for the restoration of environment,” it said. Any damage to the water bodies would also have to be paid for.
The four-member green bench said AoL could be asked to pay for setting up a biodiversity park in the area.
The tribunal pulled up the environment ministry, saying: “What is your primary duty? Do you believe Art of Living has not done any damage to the environment?”
Counsel for the environment ministry said that “we may conclude this only after conducting a study”.
The tribunal then said, possibly sarcastically: “A study will only be (carried out) after damage has been done?”
It told the water resources ministry that “managing, conserving and developing the river plains primarily falls under your domain”.
The tribunal also said that “all (government) authorities have failed to fulfil their duties”.
The NGT was moved over the alleged violation of environmental laws and pollution of Yamuna river likely to be caused by the event which is to be held from March 11 to 13. AoL told the tribunal that three lakh people from 155 countries would attend. However, in its promotional literature, it had claimed that 35 lakh people would come.
Environmental activist Manoj Mishra, who filed the petition, had insisted that the event should not only be stopped but the tribunal should also impose a fine on the organisers.
“The court has accepted our contention,” Mishra told reporters post-verdict adding “we have been successful in highlighting our primary point”.
He said the fine imposed on AoL is only an initial one.
Art of Living admitted in court that they had spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event, of which Rs.15.63 crore was for stage formation and marquees while the remaining Rs.10 crore was paid for decoration and lighting.
The event is likely to be attended by several central ministers. It is unclear whether the prime minister too would go. Rashtrapati Bhavan officials said on Monday that President Pranab Mukherjee would not be attending the event.