Sri Sri: Defending the IndefensibleMaking the Yamuna flood plains a huge stage for the Sri Sri cultural event was a big mistake. The NGT has already taken most government agencies involved in granting the licenses to task. It has felt helpless to prevent the event as when the case came up to it, the damage was already done. But one feels that regardless of the advanced state of preparations, NGT should have disallowed the event as an exemplary punishment for the flouting of norms. It would have sent a big signal to other celebrities and cash-rich charities or corporations that money and connections cannot always make them do whatever they feel like.
By Sunil Garodia
The attitude of Sri Sri Ravishankar and his team has been most dismaying. They have all along maintained that no rules were flouted and no damage has been done to the environment. Rules have not been flouted if one considers the permissions given by all the bodies that were supposedly mandated to protect the area. But without doubt the permissions were given only because Sri Sri was involved. They would not have been given to an ordinary citizen. The very fact that the permissions were given means rules were flouted, as rightly pointed out by the NGT. As for the Sri Sri contention that no damage has been done to the area, neither he nor anyone in his team are environment experts and hence they are not qualified to assess the damage caused. People qualified in this matter have said that it will take several years and lots of money â much more than the Rs 5 crore penalty levied on Art of Living â to repair the damage and we have to take their word for it.
As for the initial response of Sri Sri that he will go to jail but will not pay the penalty, it was something unbecoming of a person of his stature, again as rightly pointed out by the NGT. This just went on to show that he has no respect for the countryâs laws and its legal process. It also meant that he was using his stature to put pressure on the court to either reduce the amount or waive it off as he knew that he would not be arrested. The statement by Sri Sri lowered his esteem.
Minister Venkaiah Naidu needs to understand that not all people who are opposing the event are doing so because it is a Hindu/Bharatiya event. He might not harbor a concern for the environment but there are millions of Indians who do and they do not like it when such large scale damage is being done to a protected area. Then, there are others who also do not like the way rules were flouted for a celebrated guru and Hinduism has nothing to do with this. People would have protested even if it was a sporting event. Why choose a place that is fragile when there are hundreds of other places where the event could have been held? Let Naidu reflect on this and come up with a good answer.