Spiritual figure Sri Sri Ravi Shankar today blamed the government and the National Green Tribunal for permitting his NGO Art of Living (AOL) to hold the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna river bed and said they should be held responsible if any environmental damage was caused. The AOL head said the foundation had obtained all necessary permissions, including from the green panel, and the event could have been stopped in the beginning itself if river Yamuna was so fragile and pure. “If, at all, any fine has to be levied, it should be levied on the Central and state governments and the NGT itself, for giving the permission. If the Yamuna was so fragile and pure, they should have stopped the World Culture Festival,” Ravi Shankar said in a Facebook post.
He accused the NGT of defying all principles of natural justice and said “a historic programme deserving of applause and appreciation is unjustly projected as a crime”. “World over, cultural programmes are held on riverbanks. The whole idea was to bring awareness to save the river. The Art of Living that has rejuvenated 27 rivers, planted 71 million trees, revived several ponds is being projected as destroying a dead river. What a joke,” he said. “The AOL had obtained all the necessary permission including the NGT’s. The NGT had the application file for two months and they could have stopped it in the beginning. It defies all principles of natural justice that you give permissions and slap a fine for not violating any rules,” AOL founder read.
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In a statement AOL spokesperson Soumya Ghosh said “the NGT can never get over the blot it has bought on itself by delaying natural justice to AOL and allowing its own committee to malign the law abiding organisation in the press.” An expert committee had told the NGT that a whopping Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore Yamuna floodplains which was ravaged due to a cultural extravaganza organised by AOL last year. The expert panel has suggested that there would be two components of rehabilitation plan — physical and biological, and they would cost Rs 28.73 crore and Rs l3.29 crore respectively, besides additional ancillary expenses.