Environmentalists have alleged that the festival on the Yamuna's floodplains will irreversibly corrode the ecosystem of the area
New Delhi: Hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's mega cultural fest in Delhi, the opposition launched a scathing attack in Parliament demanding to know why the spiritual guru's Art of Living had not deposited a 5-crore fine imposed by the country's top green court.
Here are the latest developments:
"There is a fine of Rs. 5 crore. He says he will not pay the fine. Send him to jail. Is he above the law," said Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav in the Rajya Sabha.
"We have not done anything wrong... we will go to jail but not pay a penny," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had told NDTV on Thursday, rejecting allegations that environmental damage has been caused to Yamuna river's floodplains in preparation for his festival.
On Friday morning the National Green Tribunal or NGT asked Art of Living whether the spiritual guru had indeed said he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. The green court also said it did not expect such a comment from a person "of such high stature."
AOL also said it would like to use the five crores towards the creation of a biodiversity park in the area, as ordered by the green court.
The AOL plea came after the National Green Tribunal agreed to hear a fresh petition by environmentalists to stop the event as the organisers had not paid the fine.
The NGT, which had on Wednesday allowed the festival with conditions, had said the fine must be paid before the inauguration today or "the law would take its course." It also warned that after the event, the organisers are likely to be presented with a much larger bill.
Environmentalists allege that the festival, spread over 1,000 acres of the Yamuna's floodplains, will irreversibly corrode the fragile ecosystem of the area. In Parliament today, the Congress' Jairam Ramesh, a former Environment minister, called it "a complete ecological destruction of the Yamuna plains".
The event over the next three days will include musical performances on a seven-acre stage, mass meditation sessions and prayers led by Sanskit scholars, AOL has said. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has described it as "a Cultural Olympics".