National Green Tribunal has deferred its order on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ambitious World Culture Festival scheduled to be held later this week as the hearing will continue even on Wednesday.
The NGT on Tuesday grilled all the stake holders including the Delhi government, ministries of the central government, Delhi Development Authority and the Uttar Pradesh government.
Defence Minister Manahor Parrikar though defended his decision citing the advice from the former Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi.
Bassi, according to Parrikar, had advised the need to seek army personnel’s services given the expected number of participants.
The former top cop of Delhi, according to media reports was told by Sri Sri that since 35 lakh people were likely to attend the event, it posed a real threat of a stampede at the venue.
However, on Tuesday during the hearing, the Art of Living told the tribunal that it expected only 2-3 lakh people at the event.
Critics feel that it was the spiritual guru’s proximity to the high-profile BJP leaders that prompted the central government to generously provide every necessary help in making the programme a success.
Sri Sri had campaigned for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabh elections and has been a known supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One of the former directors of Art of Living, Mahesh Giri, had successfully contested Lok Sabha election from Delhi. Giri, a disciple of Sri Sri, is reportedly in the organising committee of the event, which is scheduled to be inaugurated by PM Modi.
Social media has been abuzz with criticism for the central government on what they perceived has been a blatant attempt to abuse government machinery to help an individual in an alleged quid-pro-quo exercise.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Delhi Govt submitted before the NGT that organisers hadn’t taken permission from Delhi Police and Fire Dept for World Culture Festival.
This development will lead to many questions as to how Sri Sri was allowed to go ahead and build a mammoth stage using the central government’s machinery even without obtaining the necessary permissions to do so.
Elsewhere, Sri Sri denied his programme was likely to cause damage to environment.
He said, “As per my knowledge, not even a single tree has been cut down, we’ve only trimmed four trees. We want Yamuna to be clean. We will not pollute the environment. We haven’t cut a single tree. We’ll leave it as a beautiful bio-diversity park.”
These are the highlights of the hearing and how NGT grilled different stakeholders on Tuesday:
To Union Water Resources Ministry:
- Was any environmental impact study done?Was any permission to construct bridge was given?
- Did you keep into account how will you protect the river Yamuna?
To Union Environment Ministry:
- If somebody has to alter the floodplains, don’t you think it requires your clearance?
To Union Environment Ministry, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi and UP governments
- Have you considered impact of event on Env, biodiversity &pollution it could generate?
To UP government
- The area which you have given, does it come under flood plain?
- Have the organisers taken more area? How much money has been spent clear the debris?
- With what authority did you give parking permission?
- What was the quick reaction team doing when debris were allegedly brought in by organiser
- Quick response teams should have noted it. Why was no cognizance taken when photos came in?
- You’re saying that there were no debris. Obviously, this has come subsequently
- Debris in question are from construction of the stage for the event