World culture festival, an event celebrating the 35th anniversary of the spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, scheduled to run for three days (11 march ’16-13 march ’16) and ideally expected to attract millions of followers and art lovers from across the world has also managed to be stuck in controversies and court.
A festival that intended to bring together over 35,000 artists and 3 million attendees from 155 countries with almost 172 international dignitaries, got stuck in court after Manoj Misra, a Delhi-based environmentalist, filed a petition highlighting the environmental damage, the festival was causing to Delhi’s Yamuna River.
Yamuna is considered to be one of India’s most sacred rivers.
An environmental court gave it the green signal but fined the organizers with a fine of USD 744,000. According to Mr. Misra and many other environmentalists, the organizers have destroyed the natural vegetation and polluted the river.
On the other hand, denying the allegations, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said that not a single tree had been cut down. He also said that he will appeal the order in a higher court.
If one must ponder over the issue for a minute, you’ll realize how unbelievable the sudden reaction over the ecological damage being to the Yamuna seems.
While every news channel has been reporting over the World Cultural Festival controversy from the last two days, why were there no questions raised when 118 acres of Yamuna’s floodplains were used for the construction of the Commonwealth Games Village for the 2010 Commonwealth Games? Why wasn’t it stopped then? Why wasn’t anyone fined? Does this have to do anything with the power shifts that have taken place in the country since 2014?
The state of Yamuna can very easily be seen from the metro ride towards Noida or Anand Vihar. Yamuna’s existence has been that of a waste drain which serves as a dumping ground for industrial wastes for years now.
As per reports, in the last two decades, a sum close to Rs 5,000 crore has been spent on arranging cleaning drives for the Yamuna. The condition of the river, however, remains the same with negligible improvement which really need not to be measured. Why hasn’t the media ever questioned the government about where the said money has been spent?
The reaction towards the army being called in has also been rather unexpected.
Till a couple of days ago, the whole country was engrossed in the JNU controversy with no regard to the death of an army officer, Captain Pawan Kumar in Pampore, and now suddenly everyone seemed to be questioning why the army was called in for an event as ‘unimportant’ for the army as a cultural festival.
No furor was caused over the involvement of the army in building a bridge during the Commonwealth games.
Needless to express that The Art of Living Foundation has been credited with the rejuvenation of 16 rivers. They have planted more than 5o million trees.
Why is there a backlash against an organization which provides free education to children across 20 different states of India?
Many suggest that the AAP Government has also been in talks with the Art of Living Foundation for starting a mass movement for cleaning up the Yamuna River.
One can’t help but ponder, did the World Cultural Festival really deserve the negative hype that it received?
(The cover image has been taken from the Facebook page of The World Culture Festival).