Rajya Sabha sees ruckus over Art of Living culture festival

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New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha on Friday raised the issue of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led Art of Living’s World Culture Festival being allowed on the Yamuna floodplains and created a brief ruckus.

The issue was raised by Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav in the upper house soon after the house met.

“He (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) is challenging the National Green Tribunal… this is a national issue. You complain of traffic jams when farmers and labourers come to the national capital. The whole of Delhi is going to be choked now,” said Yadav.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was quick in responding, as he blamed the opposition leader of looking at the issue with a political prejudice.

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“What is your problem with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar? He is a nice person and is holding a cultural programme,” Naqvi said.

Yadav then questioned why was Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the function, to which Naqvi said: “We are also going, you should also go there.”

“The issue is closed. He is sensitive towards environment… It is not right to speak about the issue with a political prejudice,” he said.

Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh then said from Akshardham temple to Commonwealth Games Village and now this festival have destroyed the ecology of the Yamuna river in Delhi.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad also joined the members.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped a fine of Rs.5 crore on Art of Living for the event. According to a report, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said he would not pay the amount and is ready to go to jail. But his organisation seemed softening its posturing on Thursday evening.

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On Friday, the NGT gave the Art of Living (AoL) Foundation three weeks more to pay the environmental compensation for the festival.

The NGT had held a hearing on Friday over implementation of its Wednesday’s order.

AoL told the tribunal that it will abide by the ruling and sought four weeks to deposit Rs.5 crore.

The tribunal said that the AoL should pay Rs.25 lakh on Friday and the balance in three weeks.

The AoL’s three-day cultural extravaganza starts on Friday.

The organisers have already spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event.

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