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Uttar Pradesh: Man arrested for raping and murdering nine-year-old girl in Mathura

Mathura: One person was arrested from Hathkauli village in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, for raping and murdering a nine-year- old girl, police said on Wednesday.

Indrajit, who is in his 40’s, kidnapped and raped the girl, who was his neighbour, on Monday, SSP Mohit Gupta said.

Indrajit has confessed to his crime, SSP said, adding that he was arrested near Hathkauli village falling under Baldeo police station.

Indrajit confessed to his crime before the press, saying, “After alluring the girl I took her to a mustard field near Yamuna Expressway and murdered her, after raping her.”

SSP Gupta said that the accused was earlier trying to dodge the police by pretending to help in the girl’s search operation, but when he suddenly disappeared, police became suspicious of his involvement.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 09:10 IST

The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

Environmentalists raise red flag over proposed landfill project on Yamuna river bed

Environmentalists have raised a red flag over the proposal by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna in New Delhi – an active and vulnerable flood plain.

In a letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a civil society consortium dedicated to the restoration of river Yamuna as an eco-system, has asked for the former’s intervention to prevent the project from being executed.

East Delhi Municipal Corporation has proposed to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna. PTI

East Delhi Municipal Corporation has proposed to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna. PTI

In the letter – that was also marked to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal – Manoj Misra, the NGO’s convenor, has not only appealed to the government heads to consider the environmental and legal fallout of the proposal but has also taken pot-shots at the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for being a silent approver and for ‘not applying its mind on the matter.’

The environmentalists only came to know about the matter after EDMC filed an application before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking clearance for the project.

“We came to know about the proposal when it got listed at NGT for clearance. Presuming that the L-G has given approval to this proposal, EDMC has claimed it in black and white. I have written to the L-G seeking his intervention in this matter, as I feel that he has been kept in the dark about various aspects related to the proposed landfill,” Manoj Misra told Firstpost.

Stating that the proposal is not only illegal but environmentally dangerous if implemented, he said, “Setting up a landfill on a river bed is beyond comprehension. Nowhere across the world has such a thing ever happened. It’s like you are creating another Ghazipur or Bhalswa like landfill on the river bed of Yamuna,”

“The proposed site adjoins residential areas of high population density. Lakhs of people will get affected due to this move, as the underlying aquifers and ground water will get contaminated and become highly toxic. The residents of east Delhi, especially Shahdara, Mayur Vihar, etc will be worst hit,” Misra said.

According to environmentalists, the proposed site is an active flood plain, which revives after every flood in the river. The NGT expert committee report has earmarked the site for development of wetlands and water bodies to store flood waters for the city.

“Besides the NGT, the DDA too had planned for the proposed site to be used for a series of wetlands. The site being in the river bed violates all legal provisions in the country under the Water Act 1974, Environment Protection Act 1986, Waste Management Rules 2016, DDA Act, Zonal Plan for Zone O, etc. Despite having full knowledge of these legal requirements, how could the DDA suggest this site is beyond comprehension,” added Misra.

A Google Maps grab of proposed landfill site on the Yamuna Flood Plains.

A Google Maps grab of proposed landfill site on the Yamuna Flood Plains.

Meanwhile, in addition to approaching the NGT, environmental activists have also launched a signature campaign. Swechha, an environmental NGO, has also launched an online campaign against the proposal.

“EDMC’s proposal to develop a 150-acre landfill site along with a waste-to-energy plant on the floodplains of river Yamuna, is the most preposterous and ill-conceived proposal in the history of urban governance in the country. The landfill proposal with a capacity of managing over 3000 metric tons of garbage daily is a dangerous proposition. It’ll sit over a source of drinking water, it’s in the high seismic zone near densely populated area and also next to several archaeological sites,” said Vimlendu Jha, secretary, Swechha.

Besides the landfill site, the EDMC has also proposed a waste-to-energy plant, compost plant, C&D processing plant, Leachate treatment plant, recycling units, etc. The proposed site is in Ghonda Gujran Khadar (floodplain).

In fact, environmental experts strongly advocate a ‘no landfill policy’ and promote decentralized waste management.

“There should be no landfill on Yamuna’s banks. In fact, the entire paradigm of waste disposal management has to be changed. We shouldn’t keep looking for more and more landfill sites; rather decentralized waste management should be promoted and the need of waste disposals in landfills should be minimised. There should be a ‘no-landfill policy’ in place and existing landfills need to be managed well,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government has ruled out any such proposal for a landfill site on Yamuna floodplains.

“There can’t be a landfill on Yamuna floodplains. It needs to be seen from where such a proposal has come. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee will cancel such a proposal,” a senior Delhi government official told Firstpost.

Letter to L G From Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan by Firstpost on Scribd

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 16:14 IST

Delhi bridge is India’s first to get intelligent measuring system

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The iconic old Yamuna Bridge of the Northern Railways (NR) is all set to become the country’s first railway bridge to have its camber tested electronically with the help of laser. Camber is a technical term for the upward deflection in girders of a bridge due to the stress exerted by traffic or trains moving on them. Confirming the development, NR Chief Spokesperson Neeraj Sharma said the contract to install the system, called the Intelligent Camber Measurement System, will be given in some time. The Expressions of Interest have already been called, he said.The old Yamuna Bridge was chosen as it fulfilled all the qualities the railways was looking for in this pilot project, a senior engineer from the NR’s Bridge Department told DNA. “It is old, carries a lot of traffic, is made of steel and is right within the limits of Delhi, making it easier to inspect. The project is being monitored at the divisional level, zonal level as well at the Railway Board. The offices of all these three set-ups are in Delhi,” he explained.At present, the camber measurement of bridges such as the old Yamuna Bridge is done manually, with the Engineering Department personnel having to walk on it with various measurement instruments and scales. “The disadvantage is that the measurements cannot be done in real time, that is when a train is passing on the bridge. With the Intelligent Camber Measurement System, however, real-time measurement of deflections on a bridge due to the forces exerted by a passing train can be recorded,” the official said. The officials are seeing the development as the railways’ slow but inevitable move towards the use of technology in matters concerning safety.On its edit page on November 22, in a ‘by invitation edit piece’ by Subodh Jain, Former Member (Engineering) Railway Board, DNA had highlighted the issue of over-dependence on humans for safety checking.Writing for DNA, Jain had stated: “The most striking feature of the Indian Railways is that no country operates such a massive system with so much technological backwardness. We are adding more trains year after year, more passengers are being carried from one place to another. The technological base of the system, however, remains the same as it was for the last several decades. Look at the way track fractures are checked even today by a single person walking in the wilderness in the cold night, with tools that have remained the same for years now.”

Fish and us

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Across the world November 21 is celebrated as World Fisheries Day. In India, the fisheries departments consider marine fish or reservoir fish worth talking about. But our rivers are home to nearly a 1000 fish species that provide livelihoods to over 11 million people. A good population of riverine fish are an indication of a healthy, functioning river. The construction of dams have brought catastrophic decline in river habitats and Indian fisheries.Several countries are decommissioning dams based on their impact on fish. The US has decommissioned almost 1,000 dams in the past two decades, to ensure the survival of migrating fish such as salmon and steelheads. A dramatic illustration of this was provided to us at Bonneville Dam, Columbia river, USA in 2011. We were taken to a chamber below the riverbed, where one could see fish climbing a fish ladder, meant to help them get over the dam. In India however, dams make no provision for fish. We visited the Farakka Barrage, on the Ganga in Bengal to study fabled fish lock, that helps the migration of hilsa. The Ganga till the commissioning of Farakka in 1975, had a rich fish diversity and productivity right till Kanpur.Even tributaries such as the Yamuna were remarkably rich. But Farakka destroyed hilsa in the Ganga/Padma. We looked for the fish lock, but engineers and officials said we were mistaken.In Nov 2011, we visited the Narora Barrage on Ganga, which also holds a healthy Dolphin population to see how the fish-pass functions. We saw a trickle flowing down the pass, no fish. Even the Hirakud dam, one of the first dams constructed post-independence; and Mettur Dam, have fish passes — though none function. No new studies or remedial measures are being undertaken. New dams are designed and receive clearances without any thought of their impact on fish and fisheries. Dolphins, hilsa, mahseer, snow trouts are some iconic fish, but there are scores of others in our rivers. Dams profoundly impact fisheries but no compensation is given to the fisher folk. This is starkly visible at the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada. When it comes to fish it is not a monochromatic development vs the environment. Like the fish, we also survive on healthy rivers.

Questioning SC’s order means democracy has failed – Subramanian Swamy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The firebrand leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Subramanian Swamy on Friday said questioning the Supreme Court’s decision on the Satluj Yamuna Link issue is equivalent for failure of democracy.”Once the Supreme Court has ruled and I have taken the stand in the case of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Questioning the Supreme Court order means democracy in fail. The whole idea of court system is that both sides have strong case and ultimately somebody has to decide ,” he said.Swamy took a jibe at Congress Punjab state president Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation moments after the verdict by the Supreme Court, terming him as a non serious politician.”His resignation is meaningless because he was supposed to represent state in the Centre and not in the Supreme Court. It shows lack of application of mind in part of Amarinder Singh. He is just not a serious politician,? he said.Swamy further advised Punjab government not to take extremist position on SYL issue, but should examine whether there is any scope within the law. to appeal against the verdict. Yesterday, the Supreme Court held the 2004 law passed by Punjab to terminate the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water sharing agreement between neighbouring states as unconstitutional.Following which, Congress Punjab state president Captain Amarinder Singh decided to quit as a member of the 16th Lok Sabha from the Amritsar constituency in Punjab with immediate effect “as a mark of protest against the deprivation of the people of Punjab of the much-needed Sutlej river water.”

Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal dispute: Punjab CM Badal refuses water to Haryana, AAP to hold morcha

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday of the Punjab government’s 2004 law as unconstitutional to terminate the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water-sharing agreement with its neighbouring states, MP Amarinder Singh along with 42 Congress MLAs submitted their resignation in protest.

The 43 MLAs are expected to personally handover their resignations on Friday to Vidhan Sabha Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, said a report in The Indian Express.

“Haryana will never get the water,” Amarinder Singh told News18, and also blamed Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for entering into the water-sharing agreement.

Reacting to the verdict, Badal assured the people of Punjab that only the SAD can make sure that Punjab “will not let the water go” and that the resignation by the Congress party members was just drama, reported ANI. Badal also said, “Punjab ka paani kahin nahi jaayga, nahin jayga aur nahin jaayga (Punjab’s water will not go anywhere).” Badal then stressed that SYL canal dispute was not political but “a livelihood and economic issue”.

The Aam Aadmi Party has announced an indefinite morcha at Kapoori village from Friday to protest against the SC verdict — Kapoori village, located in Patiala, is where Indira Gandhi had performed the stone-laying ceremony of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal in 1982, reports The Indian Express. The report also mentioned that AAP would not allow the implementation of the verdict if it came to power in Punjab. BJP MLA Vijay Sampla called Amarinder Singh’s resignation “another excuse to stay away” from Parliament as he was “anyway never seen” there, ANI reported.

Meanwhile, Haryana minister called the verdict a “ray of hope” and advised Punjab CM Badal to accept the decision to give water to Haryana.

The Bains brothers (Balwinder and Simarjeet Singh Bains), who floated Lok Insaaf party ahead of the Punjab elections, have asked Badal to convene an emergency session of the Assembly, adding that they will wait for two or three days for the session, else they will submit their resignations as well, according to The Indian Express.

The Supreme Court on Thursday responded in “negative” to all the four questions referred to it by then President APJ Abdul Kalam on the constitutional validity of the law passed by then Punjab government-led by Captain Amrinder Singh to nullify the court verdicts and unilaterally terminating the almost three-decade old SYL water sharing agreement.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice AR Dave said in its advisory verdict, “Once a conclusion is arrived at to the effect that one state, which is a party to the litigation or an agreement, cannot unilaterally terminate the agreement or nullify the decree of the highest court of the country, the state of Punjab cannot discharge itself from its obligation which arises from the judgment and decree dated 15, January, 2002, and the judgment and order dated 4 January, 2004 of the apex court.”

The controversial 1981 water sharing agreement came into being after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. The Indus Waters Treaty, 1960 which was executed between India and Pakistan, later led to inter-state division of water share among states like Punjab, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir.

Punjab, which was entitled to 7.20 million acre feet (including 1.30 MAF for Pepsu) out of 15.85 MAF of surplus water from Bhakra-Nangal project, was required to give 3.5 MAF water to Haryana from its own share.

For effective allocation of water, the SYL canal was conceptualised and both the states were required to construct its portions in their territory.

Haryana constructed the portion of SYL canal in its territory. However, Punjab after initial work, stopped the work leading to a spate of litigations. In 2004, the Congress government of the state came out with the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act with an intention to terminate the 1981 agreement and all other pacts relating to sharing of waters of rivers Ravi and Beas.

With inputs from PTI

SC refuses to stay Allahabad HC order making Delhi-Noida flyway toll free

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has refused to stay Allahabad High Court’s order making Delhi-Noida flyway toll free. The HC asks CAG to verify the cost of DND flyway project and submit a report before it.The apex court had refused to stay the Allahabad High Court’s order on October 28 that no toll will be collected from commuters moving on the DND till further orders.The Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited had filed a plea in the apex court against the Allahabad High Court’s order asking it to stop collecting toll from commuters plying on the DND flyway connecting Delhi and neighbouring Noida.The apex court said that it will get the profit account of DND toll company audited either by CAG or by an independent auditor to find whether the profit recovered was adequate. The flyover connects Delhi on the west bank of the Yamuna with Noida and East Delhi. A division bench comprising Justices Arun Tandon and Sunita Agarwal passed the order while allowing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Federation of Noida Residents’ Welfare Association.The PIL, which was filed in 2012, had challenged the “levy and collection of toll in the name of user fee by the Noida Toll Bridge Company”.Commuters travelling from Delhi to Noida or East Delhi have heaved a sigh of relief over not being told to pay Rs. 56 to and fro (Rs.28 each way) every day to facilitate a smooth entry and exit in the Delhi-NCR region.Earlier in August, a group of protesters had demanded that the Rs 28 toll be scrapped, alleging that the Noida Toll Bridge Company had already made profits, but were still charging toll. The expressway, which opened in 2001, considerably reduces the travel time between Delhi and Noida. Commuters, however, often face huge traffic jams.Nearly 1.5 lakh vehicles take the route daily.

Has anyone seen Captain Amarinder Singh in Lok Sabha: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday questioned the resignation of the president of the Punjab unit of the Congress party, Captain Amarinder Singh, from the 16th Lok Sabha moments after the Supreme Court ruling declared a 2004 law passed by the state assembly to deny Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal water to Haryana as illegal and unconstitutional.”Has anyone seen Captain Amarinder Singh in the Lok Sabha? A person who has not gone to the Lok Sabha automatically becomes eligible for resignation. He should have been dismissed, he has just done some face saving exercise,” Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and BJP MP Vijay Sampla said. “About the Punjab MLAs, their term was about to get over by next month, that is why this is a drama,” he added.Sampla also blamed the Congress for being the root cause of the water sharing problem. “When the SYL was constructed by Indira Gandhi, then Captain Amarinder Singh was prominently behind it,” Sampla added.Post his resignation from the Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh has sought a personal meeting with the speaker next week. Congress MLAs have also sent their resignations to the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, and will meet him this morning to personally hand over their letters. The Supreme Court held as unconstitutional the 2004 law passed by Punjab to terminate the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water sharing agreement with neighbouring states. In his resignation letter, Captain Amarinder said he had decided to quit as a member of the 16th Lok Sabha from Amritsar constituency in Punjab with immediate effect “as a mark of protest against the deprivation of the people of my state of the much-needed Sutlej river water.The Centre had said that it was having a neutral stand in the matter in which the court has recorded the stand of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.

Apex Court verdict on SYL Canal creates piquant situation for Cong, BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With elections round the corner in Punjab, the Supreme Court (SC) verdict on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal water-sharing agreement sparked a political blame game in the state, as well as a piquant situation for national parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Immediately after the verdict, which quashed the 2004 Punjab Act passed during the Congress government terminating all water agreements with the neighbouring states, Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh resigned from his Lok Sabha seat while his party MLAs resigned en masse from the State Assembly.But Chief Spokesman of his Party, Randeep Singh Surjiwala, hailed the verdict, showing the divide between the Congress leaders in Haryana and Punjab. The BJP is also in no less a precarious position, as it heads the government in Haryana and is in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, where an emergency cabinet meeting said it would not allow SYL to be built at any cost.The state goes to polls next year and the ruling BJP-Akali Dal combine is trying to thwart tough competition from a resurgent Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party. In Chandigarh, the Punjab Council of Ministers declared that not a single drop of water from Punjab rivers would be allowed to go out of state.The Constitution Bench, headed by Justice Anil R Dave, held the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, on a Presidential reference the same year as unconstitutional and asked the Punjab Government to construct the remaining part of SYL Canal as per the 2003 judgment of the Apex Court to supply Haryana its share of water.The Bench that comprised Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, Adarsh Kumar Goel and Amitava Roy had reserved the verdict on May 12 after the Centre took the neutral stand that the states concerned should settle their dispute themselves. It held that Punjab cannot unilaterally wriggle out of an agreement involving other states.The Sutlej Yamuna Canal was conceived for sharing Ravi and Beas river waters after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. However, Punjab has been regularly opposing it, saying its agriculture will suffer. Even before the verdict was delivered, the Akali Dal declared to oppose it if it goes against Punjab’s interest. Chief minister Prakash Singh Badal’s declaration that Punjab would demand royalty from the riparian states for using its river waters the same way states claim royalty from mineral resources.The Indus Water Treaty signed by India and Pakistan in 1960 entitled it to unrestricted use of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej waters till they enter Pakistan. Since Sutlej waters were utilised for the Bhakra Nangal Project, the surplus flow from Ravi and Beas was allocated through an agreement under which Punjab got 7.20 MAF (Million Acre Feet), Rajasthan 8 MAF and J&K 0.65 MAF.However, the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, to carve out Haryana, led to a notification 10 years later to build the SYL Canal to let Haryana get 3.5 MAF. Both Punjab and Haryana started construction of the Canal in their territories in the eighties when a new agreement was drawn up in December 1981 that gave the highest 8.60 MAF share to Rajasthan, followed by Punjab (4.22 MAF), Haryana (3.50), J&K (0.65 MAF) and Delhi (0.20 MAF for drinking water). The agreement envisaged completion of the canal within two years. The timeline was later extended to August 15, 1986, but the work stopped due to the Sikh insurgency in Punjab and killing of two top engineers of the project.

SC to pronounce verdict on Satluj-Yamuna Link canal presidential reference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce its verdict on Wednesday on the presidential reference of 2004 on the controversy relating to sharing of water from Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal by north India states including Punjab and Haryana.A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A R Dave, who is demitting office on November 18, reserved the verdict on May 12 after the Centre maintained its earlier stand of 2004, that the states concerned should settle their disputes on the matter by themselves.The Centre had said it was not taking sides and was maintaining a neutral stand in the matter in which the court has recorded the stand of other states — Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.During the hearing of the case, while Punjab Assembly passed a law to return the land acquired on its side for the construction of SYL canal, the Haryana government approached the apex court which directed the status quo to be maintained.The court has also appointed the Union Home Secretary and Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) as the ‘joint receiver’ of land and other property meant for SYL canal. Isolated by other stakeholders over the dispute over water-sharing of SYL canal, Punjab has earlier said the apex court was not bound to answer the presidential reference made at the instance of the Centre which had no power to resolve the dispute.The Parkash Singh Badal government has submitted that a fresh tribunal be set up to resolve all disputes with other states including Haryana on all aspects, which will also cover the riparian rights and the dwindling flow of water. nIt had said a fresh tribunal was sought in 2003, about 18 months before the 2004 law, to review the 1981 Longowal Accord on river water-sharing in view of depleting flow and other changed circumstances.The water-sharing agreement was among Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. On Haryana’s demand, Punjab has said that after its creation in 1966, it had become a riparian state of the Yamuna and was getting its share. At the same time, it had lost its riparian rights after it was carved out of Punjab.

Delhi: AAP MLA Rituraj Govind arrested for assault during Chhat puja

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Police on Sunday arrested Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Kirari Rituraj Govind, who has been accused of assault during Chhath Puja celebrations along the Yamuna river bank in his constituency.Rituraj has been arrested on charges of apprehension of breach of peace during Chhath pooja.A day ago, Rituraj had claimed that he was detained for trying to conduct puja at a heritage site along the Yamuna river bank, even as the police said the legislator was only called for a “discussion”.According to him, he was trying to build a ghat at Nithari talaab near the expressway on the occasion of Chhat puja. Local villagers objected to by his move even as he said that the construction of the ghat was funded by the Delhi government.However, the police said CrPC section 144 (prohibiting assembly of more than four people) was imposed in the ghat area, which is a heritage property, since Sunday morning in view of the Chhat puja and the MLA had allegedly violated the order. The prohibitory order will remain in place till November 7, they said.The MLA alleged that there was minor stone-pelting by a group of villagers, which was led by a local BJP activist.

Saying goodbye, the green way

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Come November 8 and Delhi’s busiest cremation facility, the Nigambodh Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna, will get six new pyres. These will be somewhat unusual in that while wooden logs will be used to burn the corpses, like in the traditional Hindu manner, the amount of wood used will be far less. Instead of the 250-400kgs of wood that’s required in general, these ‘green’ crematoriums will use 100-150 kgs, a 65-75% reduction.Mokshada Green Crematorium System, as it has been christened, is the result of a quarter-century of research on shamshan ghats by Ghaziabad-based mechanical engineer Vinod Kumar Agarwal.His attention was drawn to this excess need for pyre wood in 1992, when he saw pallbearers throw a body into the river because they couldn’t find enough dry wood to burn it. Agarwal used his years of experience as a foundry manager to come up with an environment-friendly and energy-efficient alternative, while keeping in mind traditional Hindu rituals.According to Agarwal’s research, 500 to 600 lakh trees are cut for cremation across India every year, releasing 80 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide and eight lakh tonnes of ash into rivers. “Electric and gas-based crematoriums exist, but they haven’t found acceptance among the tradition-conscious. In Delhi, there are only 13 gas and electric pyres that execute 50-60 cremations every day, as opposed to the 450 conventional crematoriums that see 900-1,000 cremations daily.”The Mokshda system works because it uses wood in the traditional way, says Agarwal. “We have channelised the flow of air to minimise heat wastage,” he explains. Instead of placing the corpse on wood, which blocks circulation of oxygen needed for efficient combustion, leading to a higher utilisation of wood, Agarwal’s solution entails placing the corpse on a raised stainless steel platform, allowing for efficient combustion. This platform has an open canopy with a chimney above, allowing the heated air to escape. “Religious leaders testify that this system adheres to religious cremation norms,” says Agarwal.Despite such validation, his NGO Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti has managed to install only 50 of these pyres around the country. Of these, four are in Mumbai (installed in 2008), six in Ahmedabad and Delhi will soon see a total of 12.”In 2012, we compiled detailed project reports to install 15 Mokshda crematoriums on Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi and eight more in Allahabad, but those projects are stuck,” he says.More than bureaucratic procrastination or religious objections, what’s prevented a greater acceptance of these crematoriums are wood sellers who stand to lose business, and the priests who are in cohorts with them. “This is the reason they don’t tell people about it, or actively discourage people from opting for Mokshada,” laments Agarwal.Perhaps if PM Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha, champions Agarwal’s energy-efficient, environment-friendly crematorium, things might change.Life after death?You could be a treeIn 2013, a Spanish design company called Estudi Moline came up with an innovative way to go green, designing a Bios Urn. The biodegradable pot contains a seed and can be filled with the ashes of loved ones who have passed away. When planted, the seed germinates into a shoot which, as it grows, draws nutrition from the ashes. As the Bios Urn website says, it’s a way to change “the way people see death” by converting the “end of life” into a transformation, a “return to life through nature”.

Nitin Gadkari asks officials to fast-track Yamuna boat service project, wants commencement by October

Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday asked officials to fast-track the project on starting a boat transport service on a section of Yamuna and see if it could be commenced from October.The Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, PWD Minister Satyendar Jain and Water Minister Kapil Mishra discussed the issue during a meeting in New Delhi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gadkari asked officers of his ministry to fast-track the project that seeks to start the boat service from Wazirabad to Fatehpur Jat and check if it could be commenced from October. Transport Ministry officials also raised the issue of building terminals on the banks where boats could berth.Gadkari said starting the project on this small patch in Yamuna would serve as a “model for the entire country” and also prove to be a boost to the waterways transport. Kejriwal too emphasised that the project would send the “message aloud across the country”. Officials from the two sides are expected to visit the sites in a day or two.Delhi government asked the Centre if 54-km Najafgarh Drain could be marked as an inland waterway Both sides discussed several pending issues, including dredging of Yamuna river in order to take up the project. Apart from it, progress on the work of decongesting the national capital was also taken up during the meeting.

We haven’t damaged Yamuna floodplains ecology: Art of Living Foundation

New Delhi: The Art of Living (AoL) Foundation led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Monday said it has paid the Rs 5-crore environment compensation imposed by the National Green Tribunal but maintained it did not cause any damage to the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

“We are yet to produce our evidence in court. We are presenting the evidence before the media just to enable the people understand that we have done nothing wrong,” Jaideep Nath of AoL said.

“We paid the compensation to assure the National Green Tribunal that we are financially good. We have paid the amount but if we win the case, we will ask for its refund,” he added.

Nath said in the first place, there was never any biodiversity in the floodplains which the World Culture Festival organised by the AoL in March would have destroyed.

“It is an agricultural land ploughed by the locals. We never levelled it, as is being alleged by many as it was already a plain and level piece of land,” Nath asserted.

AoL lawyer Kedar Desai said: “The foundation’s legal team is studying the NGT’s verdict and we will decide whether to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court or not, once court summer vacations are over.”

On March 9, the NGT refused to prohibit the holding of the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains, but slapped a fine of Rs.5 crore on the foundation.

The foundation deposited only Rs.25 lakh before the three-day event kicked off on March 11.

On May 31, the NGT directed the AoL to pay the remaining Rs.4.75 crore as environment compensation.

Sri Sri extravaganza: Uma Bharti thanks AOL for turning Yamuna bank into ‘much cleaner site’

Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Sunday “thanked” Sri Sir Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation for turning the site along Yamuna Bank, where it held ‘World Culture Festival’ in March, into a “much cleaner site” and even suggested the place be turned into a garden for people. “The Sri Sri event was discussed so much… I had seen this site in the past too, it was in a poor state, but now it has become much better than what it was. It is a result of Sri Sri organising the event here. “This site has become cleaner, has turned into a levelled ground, trees here have not been cut, while stretch of bushes have been cleared, which required to be cleared,” she told reporters during her visit to the site. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lauding the spiritual guru, Bharti said he has set “very big example before the country by cleaning dirtiest site in Delhi”. “We should thank Sri Sri for improving the ground which was inaccessible. This will give relief to people of Delhi. I thank him for that,” she added. Bharti suggested both Central and Delhi Government “can make good use of the site, if they want” and turn it into a public amusement facility and said she will convene a meeting to discuss ways to make the site “beautiful”. The Union Water Resources Minister’s statement, interestingly, comes in the wake of the National Green Tribunal two days ago directing the AOL to deposit an environment compensation of Rs 4 crore, imposed on it for damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity during its three-day festival. On asked by reporters about NGT observations, Bharti said the green body has a right to do so. “But I am sure the committee appointed by the NGT itself will brief it of the reality. I am here I can see the reality. Earlier, the site was inaccessible. Let lakhs of Delhi people come here, gardening work be initiated here,” she said. The NGT had on June 3 directed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) foundation to deposit the compensation amount with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) by yesterday (June 4). Held between March 11 and March 13, the AOL event was marred by controversy with the Foundation being charged of hurting the biodiversity of the river passing through the national capital.

Setback for Art of Living, NGT orders to pay balance Rs4.75 crore compensation

In a setback for the Art of Living Foundation, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered them to fork out Rs4.75 crore in a week, the balance of the Rs 5 crore environment compensation they had imposed on the non-governmental organisation for “drastically tampering with the (Yamuna) floodplains”. The Tribunal had passed an order on March 9 in which it said that the preparations for the NGO’s mega-event, to celebrate its 35th anniversary had “drastically tampered with the flood plains, destroying natural flow of river and natural vegetation on the river bed.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While reading out the order on Tuesday, justice Swatanter Kumar said that the Tribunal was dismissing the NGO’s plea to pay the balance compensation as a bank guarantee. While rejecting the plea, the Kumar also imposed a cost of Rs.5000 on the NGO. He slammed the NGO’s plea and said that it “lacked bona fide”. He went on to add, “The order of the court was used to hold the event and then you went back on its commitment. The organizers engaged in multiplicity of litigations to not pay the compensation and thus their conduct is questionable.”The Tribunal said that the NGO should use the union culture ministry’s grant to pay the balance compensation. The union culture ministry has granted the NGO Rs2.5 crore for their World Culture Festival and Rs.1.68 crore has already been disbursed, counsel for Art of Living revealed to the NGT bench on March 11.After the Tribunal imposed an environment compensation of Rs5 crore on the NGO its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. Later, on the day of the event, on March 11, the NGO approached the Tribunal and pleaded for more time to pay the compensation. The NGT, though, asked the NGO to pay up Rs.25 lakh and granted three weeks of time to pay the balance amount. But, the NGO instead pleaded to the NGT that it should be allowed to pay the balance as a bank guarantee.Meanwhile, on the issue of reconstituting the expert body that will inspect the Yamuna floodplains to fix a final compensation, the Art of Living Foundation had moved a plea to appoint new members alleging bias. But, the Tribunal did not entertain the NGO’s plea on Tuesday and said that two more members can be added to the committee on the condition that the NGO withdraw their application. But, the NGO did not accept the condition and has decided to challenge the inspection and constitution of the committee.The expert committee, headed by secretary, union water secretary, will now have to go ahead with its inspection of the floodplains and has to submit its report in a sealed cover to the Tribunal before July 4.

NGT rejects Art of Living’s plea to pay compensation by bank guarantee

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday rejected Art of Living’s (AOL) plea to pay compensation by bank guarantee for violation of environment norms during a cultural event organised in March this year, reports ANI.

The organisation must now pay nearly five crores as a fine, the country’s top environment court said on Tuesday.

Art of Living “used the order of the court to hold the event and then went back on its commitment,” the NGT said on Tuesday. The court also added that the organisers tried multiple legal cases “in order not to pay the fine” as a result of which the “conduct of the foundation has been called into question,” reports NDTV.

File photo of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. ReutersFile photo of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Reuters

File photo of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Reuters

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living had moved the National Green Tribunal in early April seeking its nod to accept the fine, slapped for allegedly damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity, as bank guarantee instead of “payment of balance amount”.

The green panel on 9 March had refused to prohibit the ‘World Culture Festival’ held between 11 and 13 March but slapped a fine of Rs five crore on his Art of Living foundation for damaging biodiversity and aquatic life of Yamuna.

Later on 11 March, AOL moved a plea seeking four weeks time for depositing the amount after which the tribunal allowed the foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on that day and granted three weeks time period to pay the balance amount.

“The applicant submits that the present application is being filed for modification of the order dated 9 and 11 March to allow for submission for security by way of a bank guarantee in lieu of payment of balance amount as directed.

“The applicant is in the process of preparing proposal laying down process/methodology for collection of scientific data/evidence regarding assessment of actual environmental damage, if any, and hopes to persuade that the damage is neither permanent nor irreversible but, in fact, remediable and respectfully seeks an opportunity to demonstrate that the allegations levelled against it are completely without foundation and the reports submitted by expert committees which form the basis of previous orders were predominantly based on visual examination of the site rather than a detailed scientific assessment which, in any event, was not possible due to paucity of time,” the plea said.

AOL has also sought to submit a proposal for laying down methodology for collection of scientific data regarding assessment of actual environmental damage and requested the tribunal to grant 45 days for the same.

Recently, Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan filed a review plea challenging the NGT order which had dismissed his petition on the ground of “delay and lapses on the part of the applicant in approaching the tribunal”.

With inputs from PTI

Parched Agra observes ‘Water Tragedy Day’ as water crisis continues

Agra: Twenty-three years after Agra was struck by a ‘water tragedy’ that claimed 21 lives, nothing seems to have changed. Even in summer of 2016, the Taj city is parched as residents are suffering due to lack of safe drinking water.

City residents recall how on 21 May 1993, contaminated water claimed the lives of 21 people in this city. Many more were critically ill for months. Compensation was announced and promises made by the then Uttar Pradesh governor Motilal Vora about providing clean water, a barrage on the Yamuna river and much more. But all those promises are yet to be fulfilled.

Each year on 21 May, Agra residents, especially in the Khateek Para, Mandi Sayeed Khan and Nala Budha localities, come out in large numbers to observe the ‘Water Tragedy Day’ as happened on Saturday, when they protested against shortage of water and flagged their demands one more time.

But it seems that their demands fall on deaf ears.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

In January, Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar had announced the setting up of rubber check dams to store Yamuna water for the lean months. In 2015, Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Minister Shiv Pal Singh Yadav had promised early start of work on the Yamuna barrage. But that has also not materialised.

Senior Congress leader Tajendra Rajora said “nothing has changed in the last 23 years and promises have not been kept”.

“The state government seems to be baffled. Sometimes it plans to release water into Yamuna from Ganga, at other times it wants water to be channelised to Agra from Chambal,” said Surendra Sharma of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

For the last three days, half of Agra city is reeling under a severe water crisis.

“Since April 1 there have been major disruptions in the supply of municipal water. The pipelines have burst, leading to suspension of water supply from Yamuna. People are tired in this heat when the temperature is around 45 degrees Celsius,” said Ranjan Sharma of River Connect Campaign.

Across the localities and slums, residents have been protesting for the past one week, demanding safe drinking water that is being supplied by the Agra Water Works.

But against a peak demand of over 500 MLD, the Agra Water Works cannot even supply half of that volume, point out locals.

Agra Water Works general manager Manju Rani Gupta said: “Maintenance and repair work of the damaged pipelines is continuing. We hope to resume normal water supply by Sunday morning.”

Over the years, demand for water has increased drastically in Agra. But no arrangement was made to augment the water supply.

“Unless they desilt and dredge the river from Delhi to Agra, the underground aquifers would not be charged and the water table will not rise,” said a local environmentalist.

The ponds are encroached upon and the canal systems have been choked. “Which means there’s no place to store the rain water,” social activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

“The water tanks need urgent cleaning and repair. To augment water availability, it is necessary to release more raw water from river Ganga and its canals. Only additional release can flush out the pollutants which are affecting the aquatic life,” said Dr. Debashish Bhattacharya of the River Connect Campaign.

Agra is crying out for help. It now remains to be seen how the government tackles the situation.

Insect attack on Taj Mahal: NGT notice to Centre, UP govt

The rampant dumping of municipal solid waste in Yamuna near Taj Mahal leading to stagnation of water in the river and consequent formation of greenish-black pigments on the iconic white marble due to breeding of an insect has caught the attention of the National Green Tribunal which on Monday sought reply from the Centre on the issue.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests, Uttar Pradesh government, state pollution control board, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and others.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The order came on the plea of environment activist and Agra resident D K Joshi who has claimed that dumping of waste in Yamuna has led to stagnation of the river and “consequently the explosive breeding of an insect called ‘Chironomus Calligraphus’ (Geoldichironomus), which is a biological indicator of water quality and localised water pollution.”Reffering to a report of the Archaeological Survey of India, the plea, filed through advocate Rahul Chaudhory, said that these insects are staining the walls of the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, greenish-black.”School of Entymology, St John’s School, Agra did a preliminary report on the insect attack to the Taj Mahal and found that the presence of the insect was causing damage to the monument,” the plea said while seeking constitution of a Committee to look into the problem to prevent further damage to the river and the monument.

World Culture Festival: Sri Sri served with two contempt notices for violating NGT orders

New Delhi: Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was, on Tuesday, served two contempt notices for violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), with regard to the World Culture Festival he organised on the banks of the Yamuna in March 2016.

The court has accepted the pleas of main petitioner, Manoj Misra, and another environmentalist Anand Arya, to club the contempt cases to a single case that will come up for hearing on 25 May, an NGT official told IANS.

In a related development, the Principal Bench of NGT headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar has pulled up the Principal Committee appointed by it to assess the damage caused to the fragile Yamuna floodplains because of the World Culture Festival (WCF) for not submitting its report even after the deadline for it has expired long go. The WCF was held on 11-13 March and attended by lakhs of people.

“Everything that comes to you has got stuck. Why have you not prepared the report,” Justice Kumar asked the committee during the proceedings of the case.

The NGT had on 9 March constituted a ‘Principal Committee’ comprising officials from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, National Pollution Control Board, ministry of environment and forest conservation, and the union water resource ministry to assess the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains.

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living websiteFile image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

In a case filed on Tuesday, Anand Arya accused Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of “wilfully disregarding and violating the NGT order passed on 9 March this year by releasing enzymes into the River Yamuna”.

In his application, Arya has referred to a verdict passed by the NGT itself where it had “prohibited any person from throwing pooja material or any other material like food-grain, oil, etc into River Yamuna”.

“It is abundantly clear that the enzymes have been released into the drains going up to Yamuna and the Yamuna itself which was pre-meditated and in utter disregard and violation of the judgment,” Arya said.

The Art of Living foundation claimed that it had prepared “totally organic enzymes with brown sugar, kitchen green waste and water in over a period of three months” to cleanse polluted water, which the AoL used to clean the nearby Barapullah drain.

Arya also accused the foundation of going against its own undertaking to the NGT.

According to the environmentalist, the AoL had “given an undertaking to the Tribunal that it will not release any kind of enzymes into river Yamuna, its tributaries or any water bodies without obtaining due permission of the Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee”.

Manoj Misra, in his application to the NGT Tuesday, said that Sri Sri has flouted the court orders by terming the Rs.5 crore environment penalty imposed by the Green Tribunal on him as “politically motivated”.

“The Applicant came across various news articles in the last few days wherein the Chairman of Art of Living has given a statement that the National Green Tribunal’s decision to fine the Foundation Rs.5 crore for allegedly causing environmental damage was politically motivated,” Misra said in his application filed through his counsel Sanjay Parikh.

The Art of Living has termed both the applications as “baseless”.

“At the NGT proceedings, it was specifically pointed out by the Art of Living that applications filed by Anand Arya and Misra were based merely on newspaper reports and that the tribunal ought not to entertain the same,” the foundation said in a written statement shared with the IANS.

Gautam Vig, Director of the foundation, told IANS that the allegations about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar giving statements against the NGT were “totally misconceived and false”.

He said the video of the Sri Sri’s speech “was available with Art Of Living which can demonstrate that the allegation was completely false”.

Vig said, “the NGT has said that if Mishra’s allegations are found without credible basis, strict action would be taken in accordance with law”.

Take a deep breath! Sri Sri’s comments on Malala aren’t hypocritical… at all

No, no, Sri, Sri is not god, god.

In the Indian belief system, it takes 1,008 Sris to attain divinity. And since Ravishankar has only doubled his Sris so far, he has a long way to go.

Double Sri, I presume, knows this. So he is competing with lesser mortals like Malala Yousafzai. Good for him. Malala has still not started insisting on an extra Mohtarma before her name, so Ravishankar has a decent start over the teenager in the battle of titles.

The only problem is the Nobel Peace Prize the teenager already has in her kitty.

But, on Monday, Sri Square brushed that achievement aside like a trinket won at a kindergarten sack race to re-establish his lead. That girl did nothing to deserve it and is, thus, an unworthy achiever, he argued.

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

No, I don’t think this has anything to do with the Art of Envying. Also, nobody saw him eating sour grapes, considering the fact that he was in drought-stricken Latur, where such succulent fruits are more precious than a Nobel.

In the universe that Ravishankar lords over, not breathing deep enough pretty much amounts to doing nothing. Since Malala would not have taken enough deep breaths while on the ventilator after taking a bullet in the neck from the Taliban, Double Sri is perfectly entitled to hold her in contempt.

In fact, even before she defied death and breath, Sri may have found Malala unworthy for holding her breath while going to school in spite of fighting a fatwa from the Taliban against schooling for girls.

Such is our life and it’s an interesting time when someone who teaches us our natural instincts — deep breathing for instance — considers himself worthy of a Nobel. In a parallel universe, even Vātsyāyana could have done so for teaching us the 56 ways of performing Sudarshan Sex.

A friend recently shared his formula for happiness on Facebook.

Drink single malts and dance, he said, looking a good 10 years younger than he actually is. At 40, his tresses are not as black and long as Double Sri’s at 59. But he too appears to be completely at peace with himself. If Nitish Kumar doesn’t become the Prime Minister of India, I foresee this proponent of drunken dancing — as against Sri’s formula of breathing and dancing — as a perfectly legitimate guru of happiness in a few years.

The point is, when you can ensure people are completely at peace with themselves by teaching them to breathe, fornicate, drink, dance — essentially the things that make us humans happy — those like Malala who get the Nobel for resisting terrorists and getting a bullet in return are simply wasting their time.

Ravishankar has proved this many times. A few years ago, Double Sri made a surprise visit to meet the violent Gujjars demanding reservation in Rajasthan. He taught them to breathe, dance and left the same evening.

Unfortunately the Gujjars didn’t. They continued to block roads, highways and railway tracks till Chief minister Vasundhara Raje gave them more than a few extra breaths: The promise of reservation and the luxury of home-cooked food to their leader Kirori Singh at her official residence.

A few years later, they returned on the tracks. But Sri Sri didn’t.

Similarly, Guruji is believed to have offered to calm the agitated minds of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. Ravishankar claims he had sent a missive to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters for peace through dialogue. Unfortunately, the IS sent him a photo of a decapitated head that vaguely resembled his own in return.

“I tried to initiate peace talks with the (IS) recently but they sent me a photograph of a beheaded body of a man. Thus, my effort for a peace dialogue with the IS ended,” he said.

In many ways, Ravishankar can do with a Nobel, if not for the honour, at least for the money. Last heard, his organisation was still to pay the fine imposed by the National Green Tribunal for meddling with the ecology around the Yamuna.

But, Sri Sri has vowed to never accept the Nobel. It is political, he told farmers at Latur while quenching their thirst with deep breaths and yogic postures.

He may not yet be Sri Sri 1,008 god incarnate.

But you can certainly not accuse Padma Vibhushan Ravishankar of hypocrisy.

NGT warns Delhi Jal Board: Don’t play smart game with us

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) was on Tuesday taken to task over construction of a sewage treatment plant by the National Green Tribunal which warned its officials not to play a “smart game” on the issue concerning pollution in river Yamuna.Gujarat Lions vs Delhi Daredevils Live Cricket Score, 31st T20, Indian Premier League 2016, May 3, 2016″For the past one-and-a-half years, we are grappling with this problem which has been generated by your client (DJB). Tell your officers not to play smart game with us. This is causing us lot of concern. Your client is causing suspicion,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar told the counsel appearing for DJB.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bench was irked that it was not informed earlier that the sewage treatment plant (STP) at Delhi Gate drain was not working properly.”Why we were not told about all this? This is very unfair. Should the tribunal rely on you (DJB)? You have frustrated the tribunal. We went out of the way to help the DJB but everytime DJB is found to be wrong,” the bench said.Senior counsel H S Phoolka, who appeared for DJB, told the NGT that when this STP was constructed, it was not anticipated that it would have so much load. He also said that flow of waste water would be diverted to other STPs.The bench, however, directed DJB to furnish details about work covered under phase one of their projects and also budget expenditure plans by May 9, the next date of hearing. The tribunal on Monday had come down heavily on DJB over construction of the STP at Delhi Gate drain here and had also directed it to provide details of planned expenditure in the current fiscal with regard to water and sewage sector.The bench is monitoring the implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’. In order to keep the Yamuna river clean, DJB had last year started trial run of its newly constructed 15 MGD waste water treatment plant at Delhi Gate Nalla.According to the DJB, the plant, which is odourless and functions on clean fuel, has been constructed at a cost of Rs 204 crore. The waste water treatment plant aims to tap highly polluted water from old Delhi areas.The tribunal had earlier rapped DJB for spending money on Yamuna without its permission and had directed it not to spend a “single penny” on rejuvenation of river without its nod. It had also directed DJB not to surrender the amount allocated to it in the last fiscal for rejuvenation of Yamuna to the Delhi government and asked it to spend the funds for implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’.

‘Enough of this joke’: NGT pulls up Delhi Jal Board over pollution in Yamuna

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal, on Monday, came down heavily on Delhi Jal Board (DJB) over the construction of a waste water treatment plant at Delhi Gate drain and summoned its engineer to explain why untreated water was still going into the Yamuna.

A bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, also directed DJB to provide details of planned expenditure in the current fiscal with regard to the water and sewage sector.

“Why was the Delhi Gate drain not properly planned? You had assured us that not a single drop of untreated water will go into the Yamuna. Still 25 to 30 percent of waste water is going into the Yamuna. We will not allow you to waste public money like this. Enough of this joke,” the bench said, while monitoring the implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’.

File photo. AFP.File photo. AFP.

File photo. AFP.

In order to keep the Yamuna river clean, DJB had last year started trial run of its newly constructed 15 MGD waste water treatment plant at Delhi Gate Nalla.

According to DJB, the plant, which is odourless and functions on clean fuel, has been constructed at a cost of Rs 204 crore. The waste water treatment plant aims to tap highly polluted water from Old Delhi areas.

The tribunal had earlier taken DJB to task for spending money on Yamuna without its permission and directed it not to spend a “single penny” on the rejuvenation of the river without its approval.

It had also directed DJB not to surrender the amount allocated to it in the last fiscal for rejuvenation of Yamuna to the Delhi government and asked it to spend the funds for implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’.

The Supreme Court and religion in India: A blinkered perspective?

Editor’s note: This is the concluding segment of a three-part series on Hinduism, godmen and the judiciary

The Supreme Court appears to have made the right sounds when it announced that temples could not be taken over by governments in perpetuity. The apex court sent out a similar message when it forbade the government from taking charge of the gold that was found in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It stated that the gold belonged to the temple and the community, and not to the government. Currently, the gold is being looked after by a special committee constituted by the apex court.

The apex court did the same thing when it passed an order nullifying the diktat of the Tamil Nadu government regarding the takeover of the Chidambaram Trust.

But there are times when the Court has unwittingly allowed some of the most retrograde decisions to be taken.

SC and religion chart 2 listicleSC and religion chart 2 listicle

A good case in point is the way in which the Supreme Court allowed the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to reserve an area of 150 km radius around the Niyamgiri hills which was considered sacred by the local population.

To be fair the Supreme Court only ordered the government to respect the decision of the local panchayat in September 2013. The 12 gram panchayats (village councils) in turn, prodded by the MOEF passed a resolution stating that there should be no mining within a 150 km radius from the hilltop of Niyam Raja, the presiding deity of the tribals in that region. The panchayats claimed that “the entire Niyamgiri hill range is sacred for us and the source of our livelihood”.

What the Court did not take into account was that a 150-km radius translates into 70,000 square km. Compare this with the geographical spread of some of the most sacred places in the world.

Vatican City, for instance, accounts for barely 0.4 sq km. And do bear in mind that Christianity is the world’s biggest religion if one goes by the number of followers it has.

The holiest of shrines for Muslims, the second most populous faith, Masjid al-Haram, which contains the venerated Kaaba, is spread over just 0.4 sq km. Unlike most religions, this is where Muslims from all over the world congregate at a fixed time of the year. Yet, it has not seen any reason to claim rights over more space.

Tirupati city, not just the temple, accounts for 24 sq km. And this includes the schools, the colleges and the temples that exist within this area. And this despite the fact that Tirupati has a higher density of population than many of the countries in which the above religious centres exist.

So what makes Niyamgiri more important than the rest of the world? Was the MoEF stark raving mad when it decided to support such a resolution? Or does it have something to do with the alleged “Jayanthi tax” that many believed was the guiding principle for granting environmental clearances for projects?

Consider the implications of such a move. What would happen if a tribe settled along the banks of the Ganges or the Yamuna were to claim that “the entire river is sacred for us and the source of our livelihood and hence should not be exploited for development”?

So, should one ban cities along the banks of the rivers? Should one scrap the Ganga and Yamuna expressways?  What if another tribe that dwells near the Himalayas echoes similar views and claims that the “entire mountain range is sacred for us and the source of our livelihood”? No sane government would buy such an argument.

That is why the apex court needs to be more careful before granting rights to tribals that nobody in the entire world has. If the tribals have rights, so do industrialists. So do people who want development. Having a blinkered perspective on religious rights can be both vexatious and pernicious.

Part I: Does Hindusim produce more godmen than other religions?

Part II: The Supreme Court’s attempts to rescue Indian temples

Art of Living event: NGT notice to Delhi govt on review plea

The National Green Tribunal on Monday sought response from Delhi government and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on a plea seeking review of its order allowing the Art of Living group’s cultural extravaganza on the Yamuna floodplains here last month.A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Arvind Kejriwal government, DDA and Art of Living foundation and asked them to respond to the review plea filed by Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. “We have gone through the review plea. The whole emphasis in your petition is on the delay and laches. See, we have only passed an interim order and the matter is yet to be heard finally on merits. All rights and contentions are kept open and no direction is required at this stage…Issue notice,” the bench said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the proceedings, the bench also issued notice to Mishra on a separate application filed by AOL seeking to pay penalty imposed in the form of a bank guarantee and extension of time for payment of the remainder amount. Advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing Mishra, strongly opposed the plea for furnishing a bank guarantee and extension of time. He also referred to some recent photographs and said the event has damaged the floodplains of Yamuna. “They (AOL) had given an undertaking before the tribunal that they would pay the amount in three weeks and now they are coming for extension of time. This is subversion of rule of law and the tribunal’s orders,” Parikh said.The tribunal, however, said it would not express an opinion at this stage and asked Misra to record his objections by way of a written response. “This is something very serious. We are not saying anything at this stage. Law will take its own course,” the bench said. Referring to a letter sent by the Principal Committee on Yamuna, the tribunal asked AOL by what time it planned to vacate the site on the river to enable inspection of the floodplains by the Committee to assess the damage done.To this, the counsel appearing for AOL said it was in the process of vacating the site. Mishra has challenged the March 9 order which dismissed his petition on the ground of “delay and laches on the part of the applicant in approaching the Tribunal.” The green panel on March 9 had refused to prohibit the ‘World Culture Festival’ but slapped a fine of Rs five crore on Art of Living (AOL) foundation for damaging biodiversity and aquatic life of Yamuna.Later on March 11, AOL moved a plea seeking four weeks time to deposit the amount after which the NGT allowed the foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on that day and granted three weeks to pay the balance amount.

Art of Living seeks NGT nod to submit bank guarantee instead of compensation

New Delhi: The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation is seeking the National Green Tribunal’s permission to submit a bank guarantee rather than paying in cash Rs.4.75 crore as “environmental compensation” for causing damage to the Yamuna floodplain by organising a festival there.

The move by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s AOL has been described by an environmentalist as “yet another attempt to frustrate the efforts to bring it to account for the damage it caused to the Yamuna floodplains” in Delhi.

The next hearing of the case by National Green Tribunal (NGT) is scheduled on Monday. It is based on complaints that AOL violated environmental laws by organising the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplain from 11 to 13 March.

The NGT on 9 March had allowed the festival organisers to go ahead, but imposed on the AOL an “environmental compensation” of Rs.5 crore which had to be paid before the start of the event.

Preparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/FirstpostPreparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Preparations for the AOL event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

After AOL failed to pay up, the tribunal relaxed that order on 11 March by allowing it to pay Rs.25 lakh immediately — which the foundation did — and the remainder in three weeks’ time.

In a “miscellaneous application” filed on Friday at the NGT, the AOL sought permission to submit a bank guarantee instead of paying Rs 4.75 crore.

The AOL also sought permission to assist the NGT to determine if any damage has happened on the ground as a result of the World Culture Festival.

Environmentalist Manoj Misra, who had first approached NGT against the festival, said the AOL is once again defaulting on its obligation by moving such an application.

“By yet again defaulting on not making the payment of Rs.4.75 crore within the time limit and seeking its extension (on the very last day on 1 April) to submit only a bank guarantee is in contravention of not only the NGT direction dated 11 March, 2016 but also its own undertaking given to the NGT in the matter,” said Misra.

It is a brazen attempt to further frustrate the efforts of the NGT to bring AOL to account for what it has done in the Yamuna floodplain, he said.

“That the floodplain at the site has been devastated is for the whole world to see and has been validated by a number of river experts. This fact has already been adjudicated by the NGT and resultantly the AOL and the relevant government agencies have been faulted and fined and disciplined by the NGT,” Misra added.

Accept fine as bank guarantee: AOL to NGT

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) has moved the National Green Tribunal seeking its nod to accept the fine, slapped for allegedly damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity, as bank guarantee instead of “payment of balance amount”. The green panel on March 9 had refused to prohibit the ‘World Culture Festival’ held between March 11 and 13 but slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore on his Art of Living foundation for damaging biodiversity and aquatic life of Yamuna.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>LIVE England vs West Indies final T20, ICC World T20Later on March 11, AOL moved a plea seeking four weeks time for depositing the amount after which the tribunal allowed the foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on that day and granted three weeks time period to pay the balance amount.”The applicant submits that the present application is being filed for modification of the order dated March 9 and March 11 to allow for submission for security by way of a bank guarantee in lieu of payment of balance amount as directed. The applicant is in the process of preparing proposal laying down process/methodology for collection of scientific data/evidence regarding assessment of actual environmental damage, if any, and hopes to persuade that the damage is neither permanent nor irreversible but, in fact, remediable and respectfully seeks an opportunity to demonstrate that the allegations levelled against it are completely without foundation and the reports submitted by expert committees which form the basis of previous orders were predominantly based on visual examination of the site rather than a detailed scientific assessment which, in any event, was not possible due to paucity of time,” the plea said.AOL has also sought to submit a proposal for laying down methodology for collection of scientific data regarding assessment of actual environmental damage and requested the tribunal to grant 45 days for the same.Recently, Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan filed a review plea challenging the NGT order which had dismissed his petition on the ground of “delay and laches on the part of the applicant in approaching the tribunal”.

World Culture Festival row: Media and politicians rallied against AOL’s peaceful event

By Darshak Hathi

First of all, I’m baffled by where did we go wrong with following the ‘procedure’. We have been sensitive to the environment in the past. We are rejuvenating 16 rivers in 3 states. We were the ones who launched Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna (My Delhi My Yamuna). Why would we wish to harm the same Yamuna?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) agrees that we went to all the relevant departments to seek their permission. What is baffling is we are being asked to pay compensation for following the rules. It is like being given a challan for driving through a green light. If it was an ecologically fragile area, the government should have refused permission earlier and we would have picked a different venue. It is baffling that they never mentioned this at any point.

Someone said we used influence to get the venue. The idea that we would use influence to pick a filthy venue full of muck and thick stench is baffling. Why would we use influence to pick an area that required so much rehabilitation?

It is baffling to note that those who were raising their voice against a temporary structure for this Festival near Yamuna did not raise their voice against permanent construction on the same floodplain just a little distance away.

Ten days before the Festival, some intelligent people asked us to shift the venue, as if it’s a buffalo tied to a peg that can be moved around. How do we know these people are intelligent? They are on TV. In their defence perhaps they have never organised an event or maybe they did not fully realize the scale of this one. Getting approvals was a lengthy process. Once we had them, it took us 50 days to assemble the stage and prepare the venue and at the last minute, someone casually asks us to shift the venue. Their logic was baffling.

The stage itself was magnanimous, the largest in the world, holding 35,000 artists and 3,000 dignitaries! Conventional structural engineers said it was not safe for it stood at a height of 40 feet, without a foundation. It was a floating stage, touted as an architectural marvel.

The impressive feat was how 4,400 artists from 28 different art forms pulled off a perfect dance — the Cosmic Rhythm — without any rehearsal. They coordinated their practice sessions over Skype from different time zones.

It takes a couple of singers months of synchronization and coordinated practice to perform together. Here thousands of artists rendered such a flawless performances. It is baffling even to the artists that despite their drenched costumes they kept playing till the end. Any professional singer or dancer would have walked off in their situation. The musicians sat from 8 in the morning till 10 in the night with an unfazed smile.

It is baffling that with such a huge crowd, other than some petty thefts, there was no crime, especially since this area has been a den of criminal activity in the past. The police are baffled that they hardly had to do anything to manage such a massive gathering.

Representational image. Tarique AnwarRepresentational image. Tarique Anwar

Representational image. Tarique Anwar

After the first day of rain and prediction for more the next day, we were concerned whether people would turn up again. But much to our surprise, we saw greater numbers the next day. What was also baffling was the efficient traffic management and smooth flow on Saturday and Sunday, though Friday saw some road-blockage due to rain.

Watching a tribal dance from Chhattisgarh and tango from South America on the same stage was baffling too. People were treated to a diverse set of performances from around the world at once!

The most baffling was how some political parties stayed away from the event. We sent invitations to the Congress as well but they did not come. When world leaders from around the world flew in to give their messages, why would these people choose to remain absent? It does not befit people at this position to be so prejudiced and biased. It only shows them in a bad light. Do they not want to send out a message for peace and unity of mankind?

The most baffling was to see 2500 religious leaders assemble on one platform and speak in one voice. A well wisher had warned us from having the festival in Delhi – “Everything will be colored. Your intentions will be misconstrued and you will be dragged in politics of the lowest order.” We did not give much heed because Delhi offered many other advantages. It was easy for people to travel to Delhi. It provided the connectivity and infrastructure that no other city could.

A section of the media ignored the beauty of the program and India’s pride in hosting the World Culture Festival. Instead they created negative news by focusing on the garbage piles. By this, we are only reminded of the old saying, “Jaisidrishti, vaisisrishti” (The world is how your vision is).

World Cultural FestivalWorld Cultural Festival

When other countries are inviting us to have this festival there, when all the foreign dignitaries and press are all praise for the message behind the event, a section of our own media is bent on running down our own country’s image. What could be more baffling!

One media house referred to the late Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, co-chair of our reception committee, who passed away in February this year, as the ‘dead man on the invitee list’. Our reception committee was formed last year and all the invitation material printed long ago. It was less than a month before the program that Dr. Boutros-Ghali passed away. The publication was so blinded by their prejudice that they lost all sense of propriety, insulting a statesman of global repute.

Amidst reports of terrorists having sneaked in to the country, someone came to our office asking for 50 all access passes to the venue for plain clothes policemen. The lady-in-charge checked and it turned out that the IB had not sent anybody for passes – our visitor was an impersonator!

Even the Prime Minister’s confirmation was left pending till the last minute. But the Government of India had taken the care of deploying enough police force on the ground.

We were caught in a raging crossfire between media houses and political parties,with a looming terror alert and unfriendly weather forecast. The Festival took off amidst so many challenges. But it is in such conditions that the power of knowledge shone bright through the thousands of our volunteers who worked tirelessly for so many days. Though many had not even slept properly, they carried an undying smile, unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and an inspired zeal. The day after the festival, I told them to take rest but they came back and cleaned the place. It is baffling how the place was cleared of all trash where so many people had food and beverages.

It takes a lot more to build something than to tear it apart, a lot more to bring people together than to drive them away. Despite all challenges, the World Culture Festival was held true to its spirit, sending the message that though diverse, we can co-exist and celebrate our differences. Whatever hurdles lay in our path, the Art of Living remains committed to the vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — One World Family.

The author is the Director of the Art of Living programme.

NGT slams discoms over wires around trees in Delhi

Power distribution companies in the capital on Wednesday came under fire from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for putting high tension cables on trees, with the green panel warning of action against their top bosses if the wires were not removed within six weeks.Click Here For LIVE SCORE: India vs Bangladesh, ICC World T20″Why are you (discoms) putting wires around the trees? Why don’t you put wires on poles?… You make all the trees free of wiring in any part of NCT, Delhi within six weeks from today…”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In the event of default of direction and the work of trees being made free of electrical wiring in any form whatsoever, the Managing Director of the Company would be liable to be proceeded against in accordance with law personally,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.During the hearing, the counsel for BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd, told the green panel that they required at least eight weeks to free the trees of electrical wires and poles were being installed at various points to achieve the target.The green panel directed all municipal corporations and concerned departments to file their compliance reports with regard to deconcretisation of trees within two weeks.”They shall protect the trees and ensure that their roots are not exposed…In the affidavit it would be specifically stated, any two colonies by each of corporation where aforesaid work in terms of the direction of the Tribunal have been followed and complied with. The affidavit be filed by the Commissioners of the respective Corporations,” the bench categorically said.The matter was listed for next hearing on April 29.The NGT had last year issued notices to Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd, BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and North Delhi Power Ltd for choking trees by putting wires around them.In 2013, it had directed public authorities, including municipal bodies, Delhi Development Authority to ensure that sign boards, advertisements, wires and other objects that deface trees as well as concrete around them in the national capital are removed forthwith.The bench was hearing a petition filed by advocate Aditya N Prasad alleging that concretisation of trees in various parts of Delhi was leading to weakening of the roots and eventually their death.

Neeri scientist in a spot after declaring World Culture Festival did no harm to Yamuna

New Delhi: National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) has distanced itself from the comments made by one of its senior scientific officers, Rakesh Kumar, who gave a clean chit to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation for organising a three-day World Culture Festival (WCF) on Yamuna floodplains in Delhi recently.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

The comments made by chief scientist and head of Neeri’s Zonal Lab Mumbai, Rakesh Kumar in the media mentioning that no damage had been caused to Yamuna floodplains due to the festival conducted by AOL Foundation have raked up controversy. The environmental activists working for the cause of river Yamuna have questioned Neeri on the grounds that led Kumar to conclude that no damage was caused to the Yamuna river floodplain.

Recently, an article in Firstpost (20 March) titled ‘World culture festival didn’t damage Yamuna floodplain, says Neeri expert giving Art of Living clean chit’, quoted Mumbai-based Kumar saying, “No real damage appears to have been done to the river or the floodplains.”

Meanwhile, Neeri has sought explanation from Kumar for making a public statement, which is against the norms of the organization.

Neeri is an environmental research institute of national importance and is a part of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has been created and funded by government of India, and is headquartered in Nagpur.

Tapas Nandy, acting director of Neeri told Firstpost, “Neeri has nothing to do with this case or any study if being undertaken by Rakesh Kumar during the WCF or with his statements appeared in the media. This organisation didn’t conduct any survey or study on Yamuna floodplains during the festival.”

“No official permission was taken by Kumar. Neither any of my colleagues nor I had any information about his visit to WCF. I came to know about it from an outsider after the article got published and the next day I shot an explanation mail to him. But till now, I haven’t received any response from Kumar. We’ve given him a working day to respond, but now we’ll take necessary step. His statement in the media on whether any damage had been caused to Yamuna floodplains due to the festival came to me as a surprise,” said Nandy.

Rakesh Kumar’s comments on WCF

• I didn’t see any damage to the river due to the pontoon bridge,” he said. In any case, pontoon bridges are very common in the north. On the issue of the use of the army, the AOL has already said the Delhi government requisitioned the forces to ensure safety of the participants.

• I visited the venue on the second day in a police vehicle and even though it was an SUV, the tyres sank in the mud due to the rain. There was no compaction of the kind that could have a lasting effect. They would have perhaps laid some rubble where vehicular movement was anticipated but even at those places, the ground was very muddy beyond a point.

• The seven-acre dais rested on itself; it had no foundation in the river or the riverbed, a fact that led to concern among some sections of the media that the stage would cave under the weight of thousands of performing artistes and attendees. It was built over-ground, of scaffolding material, with a shuttering plate beneath scaffolding and wooden boards on top. The stage held for the three days of the festival… no digging was undertaken.

• No real damage appears to have been done to the river of the floodplains.

Environmentalists raise red flag; write to Neeri

Even as environmentalists have slammed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s WCF terming it an ecological disaster, the one-day flying visit of Kumar, an environmental scientist, has raised doubts on his intention to do so, without any prior permission from his own organisation. Especially, when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that has slapped an initial fine of Rs 5 crore on AOL Foundation and constituted a probe panel of experts to do a post-event review of the festival site.

Paritosh Tyagi, former chief, Central Board of Pollution Control remarked, “There’s no doubt that damage has been caused to floodplain due to use of manual work and machines to flatten the plain and compaction for making roads, platforms etc. It’ll reduce the recharging capacity of groundwater, which is of immense importance. Opening Yamuna floodplain to such events is damaging and wrongly conceived. It’s not possible to review the impact by making a single day visit to the venue.”

Meanwhile, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a consortium working for restoration of river Yamuna has written to Neeri questioning the authenticity of Kumar’s statement.

Manoj Mishra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said, “We’ve written to Neeri to know about its involvement and whether it had conducted any study during the festival by deputing Rakesh Kumar. Unless this fact is confirmed, it would be incorrect to bring in Neeri as an institution into the matter. Neeri has expertise in environmental engineering, and it is not an institution with any in-depth scientific capacity to study rivers as ecological entities including the importance of ecological sensitivities involved with river flood plains. It’s most unlikely that the person in question has any expertise or mandate to assess ecological damages that have resulted from the event in question. Moreover ecological damages in such matters occur as much during the process of carrying out any construction activity as much from the construction itself or the high footfall during the event.”

Letter to NEERI Director

The said article giving clean-chit to AOL has prominently been displayed on the home page of the websites of The Art of Living and its branches.

Anand Arya, an environmental expert remarked, “A walk through when the function is on is hardly a scientific way of making any kind of assessment. He himself says he was there for a limited period. It’s irresponsible of any individual to rope in the name of an institution (Neeri) when there is no assignment given to that institution and also to the person. The Neeri scientist has blindly supported the AOL’s event, asserting it has not damaged the river or the floodplains in any tangible way, let alone in the long term. Are these statements based on some proper study or research?”

A few unanswered questions

• In what capacity Kumar visited AOL’s WCF in Delhi on 12 March?
• If he wasn’t representing Neeri, why did he conduct the study, on whose behalf and to prove what?
• If he wasn’t representing Neeri, how did he visit the venue in a police vehicle — SUV (by his own admission)?
• “Compaction is done to keep it stable. It is not critical to the environment unless it’s done for, say, water tanks… I did not see any construction-related compaction” – As the festival was in full swing, with lakhs of visitors around, how could Kumar conduct such a detailed and in-depth study on compaction and its effect?
• There were no semi-permanent structures anywhere. Everything built was temporary and that could be easily dismantled.
• “I didn’t see any damage to the river due to the pontoon bridge.” In the midst of the festival, when the entire area was under decoration and the pontoon bridge was in place on the river, how could Kumar conclude that there was no damage to the river? What technical examination did he conduct?
• How could Kumar say with such conviction that no digging was done? Did he visit the venue prior to the event? Evidences have already been presented before the NGT that iron poles and mechanical structures were erected by digging the ground.

The calls made and the SMSes and email sent by Firstpost to Kumar have not been responded to.

Delhi saves 229 MW power during Earth Hour

Delhi today saved around 229 MW of power as electrical appliances were switched off across the city between 8.30 AM and 9.30 PM as part of the global Earth Hour initiative aimed at energy conservation.Power major BSES said its twin arms BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna, that caters to large parts of the national capital, saved around 130 MW and 77 MW of electricity each.”This is more than last year when Delhi had saved around 200 MW,” it said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSES had earlier appealed to its over 37 lakh customers to unequivocally support the event and voluntarily switch off non-essential electrical appliances for an hour.The Earth Hour also coincided with the India-Pakistan match in the ongoing T20 World Cup, which started around 8.30 PM after being delayed by rain.Earth Hour is an annual international event created by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund) that urges households and business establishments across the world to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for an hour at the appointed time to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Punjab won’t construct Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal; unanimously passes resolution

The Punjab Assembly on Friday unanimously passed a resolution on the disputed issue of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, stating that it would not be allowed to be constructed at any cost.”The House has passed a resolution this morning in which all the political parties of the state have unanimously resolved that circumstances being what they are, the SYL Canal cannot be built. They cannot allow it to be built in defiance of the rights of the state over its river waters,” Harcharan Singh Bains, Advisor to Punjab Chief Minister, told ANI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The case before the Supreme Court (challenging government of India’s power to distribute water between the states) must be decided before SYL canal can even be talked about,” he added.In a setback to Punjab, the apex court had yesterday directed maintenance of status quo on land meant for canal after Haryana alleged that attempts have been made to alter its use by levelling it.The apex court in its interim order also appointed Union Home Secretary and Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police (DGP) as the ‘joint receiver’ of land and other property meant for the canal till the next date of hearing on March 31, 2016.Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had yesterday said that the state has no water to share, adding that the water crisis has occurred because the Riparian Act was not followed in the case of Punjab.Badal’s comment came a day after the Government of Haryana returned a cheque for Rs.191.75 crores to the Punjab Government following its refusal to accept poll-bound Punjab’s push to pass a bill to return the land acquired for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.In an attempt to prevent its neighbouring states from getting share from Punjab’s river waters, the state assembly unanimously passed a bill against the construction of SYL canal, providing transfer of proprietary rights back to the land owners free of cost.

World Culture Festival: After the extravagance come piles of garbage on the Yamuna floodplains

New Delhi: Heaps of garbage are a common sight at the Yamuna floodplains, where the controversial World Culture Festival was organised by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation this past weekend. The three-day extravaganza ended on Sunday evening with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal describing it as “historic, divine and amazing” and pledging that his government will make efforts to clean the Yamuna.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had given the organisers the go-ahead after accusing them of destroying vegetation and ruining the river’s fragile ecosystem. The NGT also slapped a fine of Rs five crore on the organisers. The Delhi High Court also described the festival — one that was organised to celebrate the AOL’s 35 years of service to “humanity, spirituality and human values” — as an “ecological disaster”.

Plastic bottles, empty packets of eatables, polythene sheets, polystyrene paper plates and other bits of trash can be found lying all over the riverbed that has been hardened and flattened, as you can see in the photographs below:

World Culture Festival AftermathWorld Culture Festival Aftermath

Atika Dondiyal, an AOL spokesperso,n told Firstpost that the cleaning work has been “contracted to Bharat Vikas Group (BVG)”, which also cleans the prime minister’s house and Rashtrapati Bhavan, and that they (AOL) will leave the area “more beautiful than ever before because serving the humankind and environment is not their commitment, but in their nature”.

“The whole process of dismantling the structures will take two to three weeks and a few more days to clean up the entire area. I cannot specify the number of days because it depends on the debris that is left. We have hired a professional agency for this. But our volunteers are also full of a sense of duty that they are coming here and doing seva to make sure that everything is done properly,” she said.

“In fact, we had 300 Argentineans this morning cleaning up the whole place, picking up plastics, collecting water bottles and everything. People from other parts of India are here for two-three days. We have 10,000 volunteers in Delhi who organised the whole show. So, they will keep coming daily in groups to work day in and day out,” she added.

Though such a large number of volunteers were nowhere to be seen, around 20-30 people along with the cleaning agency’s men were seen collecting the trash left in the wake of the mega event. The sanitation workers, Firstpost spoke to, said denied getting help of such a large number of volunteers as being claimed. “We did not meet 300 volunteers collecting the trash since morning. Yes, as you can see few people are here who doing their bit to clean the area,” said an employee of the agency.

The agency, according to its staff, has got contract of cleaning the festival ground only, not the entire area.

Meanwhile, the police on Monday found the decomposed body of an unidentified male near the World Culture Festival site on Monday. According to the cops, prima facie it appears that the man was killed two or three days ago somewhere else, and the body was dumped just after the festival ended.

Arvind Kejriwal seeks Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s assistance in cleaning Yamuna river

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday sought Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s assistance in cleaning the Yamuna river.”We are sitting along the banks of Yamuna river. We have taken several initiatives for cleaning it. If Guruji takes a little initiative … Several governments need to come together to keep the Yamuna clean. The Delhi government and the Centre and many of its ministries need to come together. “Today, on the left side of Guruji is the Union government and to his right is the Delhi government. If he takes the initiative and pledge to clean Yamuna under his leadership, then I think this can be achieved,” Kejriwal said at AOL’s World Culture Festival here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I consider myself very fortunate that I could see this historic moment. I am thankful to Guruji. Jai Gurudev,” Kejriwal added. The World Culture Festival, organised by the AOL on the floodplains of Yamuna, is facing criticism from several quarters over ecological damage. The Centre and the Delhi government too have been criticised for giving the go-ahead to the function.The Delhi Chief Minister said he is very “selfish” and is seeking help in two areas, include cleaning of Yamuna river. Noting that the AOL volunteers are “disciplined”, he also sought assistance of its volunteers in Delhi government’s functions.

World Culture Festival – Do not politicise events which concern India’s prestige: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Sunday said parties should not politicise events having a bearing on the country’s reputation and suggested that the media has been “harsh” in its criticism of the World Cultural Festival organised on the Yamuna flood plain. He claimed that his Foundation has already received invitation from Australia, Mexico and other nations for holding the next edition of the event.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We need a certain maturity. I don’t mind but I request all political parties. Whenever such a grand event is being organised, party politics should be kept aside. “You should come together so that India’s prestige on the world stage rises. It is not easy to organise an event of this magnitude…. It is a major thing… so that people from across the world can feel connected,” the spiritual guru said.”People from across the world are amazed. We got a letter from the Australian Prime Minister asking us to hold the event there. They are ready to give all the help we need, from Mexico…. The countries are keen to host this event. At the same time, the international media is asking why the Indian press is so harsh towards this festival. I smiled and said that I don’t know,” he said.Defending the organising of the festival on the flood plains of Yamuna, he said they would work for the rejuvenation of the river. Replying to a query related to his statement that he would not pay the Rs five crore fine imposed by National Green Tribunal, he said the NGT has made it clear that it was not a fine but compensation to rejuvenate the area.The AOL founder said his organisation will come with up a concrete plan for conservation of Yamuna river. “We had consulted a couple of environmentalists before the event and they had said there would be no damage to the flood plains if this event was held. Further, we will also consult some environmentalists and work on rejuvenation of Yamuna with a concrete plan of action for Yamuna,” he said.He said they had initially thought of holding the event in a stadium, but then the idea had to be dropped because of the magnitude of the programme.”Any stadium would not have been able to accommodate these many artists and people,” Ravi Shankar said as the three-day cultural extravaganza ended today. He said over 172 dignitaries from across the globe had come for the event, which drew intense criticism and also litigation over allegations that it damaged the ecology of Yamuna flood plains. Questions were also raised on deploying army personnel for its preparation and the traffic woes due to the massive event.

Top Union Ministers, NDA CMs attend World Cultural Festival

Senior NDA government ministers and Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled states on Saturday attended the controversial World Cultural Festival organised by the Art of Living Foundation on the flood plains of river Yamuna.Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended the event, in which several religious leaders from across the globe were also present. “No religion teaches enmity to others. India is a secular country. It means equality among all religion. It means a Hindu should be a good Hindu, a Muslim should be a good Muslim, a Sikh should be a good Sikh and Christian should be a good Christan. By taking their own path of worship, they respect the faith of others. The World Culture Festival is a brilliant example of secularism,” Swaraj said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh (Shivraj Singh Chouhan), Maharashtra (Devendra Fadnavis) and Chhattisgarh (Raman Singh) also attended the event. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the flood plains, where the event is being organised, was protected because of farmers who have been farming there and this was also a means to protect Yamuna.”I am fortunate that the event is taking place here, in the constituency I represent. This is also a matter of pride for Delhi government,” Sisodia said.

Art of Living not to pay fine but support restoration of Yamuna, says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose cultural event on the floodplains of Yamuna is mired in controversy over violation of green norms, on Saturday once again sounded defiant, saying he will not pay any fine or penalty.But, he said, he would wholeheartedly support the “development and restoration” of the venue where the event is being held. Addressing the event on the second day, Ravi Shankar said the amount the National Green Tribunal had asked the AOL to pay was for restoration and not as a penalty. “All through, I have lived a spotless life. I have never been late to school. I have never paid fine, even of a single paisa. So, we said we will not pay any fine. But then I was told that this is not a fine or penalty. It was wrongly reported in newspapers. “They said it was for the development here. We said, if this is for development and restoration, then we will whole-heartedly support this and put everything into this,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NGT had on Wednesday allowed Art of Living Foundation to hold the festival but asked it to pay Rs 5 crore as environmental compensation for ecological damage.However, yesterday the relief to the AOL Foundation came with a stinker from the green panel which took strong exception to Ravi Shankar’s remarks about refusal to pay Rs 5 crore and instead saying he would prefer to go to jail. “When a man of his stature makes such statements, it hits the very rule of law. If anybody hurts the image of the tribunal, he will be taken to rule of law. Don’t treat tribunal as subject to your controversy with regard to the event,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said, while directing AOL to pay Rs 25 lakh immediately after the organisation expressed difficulty in arranging Rs 5 crore in such a short period.A spokesman for AOL Foundation today said the organisation has already deposited Rs 25 lakh.The event got embroiled in a controversy after environmentalists alleged that its preparations have damaged the ecology of Yamuna floodplains and demanded that the event be cancelled.

Why CBI changed its request from detention to inform in case of Vijay Mallya, asks Congress

Opposition parties attacked the BJP government in Rajya Sabha on the twin issues of not stopping Vijay Mallya from fleeing the country and allowing Art of Living to perform a mega event despite high ecological cost to Yamuna flood plains of Delhi.While the government shied away from replying to the opposition inside the House, outside it came out in full support of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s mega event that has been slapped Rs 5 crore fine by the National Green Tribunal for causing environmental damage to Yamuna flood plains in Delhi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, questioned the government over the flip flop by the CBI on Mallya issue that finally allowed him to flee the country.Azad sought to know from the government that when the CBI on October 16 last year had asked the immigration authorities to detain Vijay Mallya if he tried to leave the country then why on November 15, the CBI changed it order and asked the authorities to just ‘inform’ it if Mallya leaves.”What has happened between one month from October 16 to November 15 that made the CBI to change to its original order from ‘detention’ to ‘inform’,” asked Azad.Challenging finance minister Arun Jaitley’s argument that a person cannot be detained or stopped from travelling outside unless there are court orders, Azad said that on January 14, a senior campaigner with Green Peace India Priya Pillai was stopped at the IG airport from boarding a flight to London and stamped offloaded on her passport.”So, my question is, what made the Government, the CBI to change its original order of 16th October on 15th of November and what were the reasons that Ms Pillai was not allowed? But on the same grounds, the government has said that since there was no court order, we could not allow her. This is double speak and double talk on the part of the Government,” charged Azad.BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi circumvented the question and instead roped in Quatrocchi in his reply.”We will not allow him to take away country’s wealth like you in case of Quattrocchi,” said Naqvi.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gets PM Modi’s pat; rain fails to disrupt Art of Living Show

There was drama on the banks of the Jamuna in east Delhi, the site of the World Culture Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation to mark its 35th year, as rain threatened to disrupt the grand opening ceremony and the cultural extravaganza that was to follow.And it almost did as the skies, which had covered the city in muggy greyness through the day, opened up half an hour before the function was scheduled to start. For the next hour it rained hard, along with hail.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But the enthusiasm of the nearly 1.5 lakh strong crowd who had come from all parts of India and 155 countries from across the world to attend the event, was not deterred. Even as some took shelter under plastic sheets, the grounds became slushy and slippery, and the chairs soaked and unusable, several people came out to dance as the Danghari Dhol beaters of Maharashtra began to the play.
ALSO READ Sri Sri gets PM Narendra Modi’s pat for ‘Kumbh mela of art’It was already well past the 5 pm scheduled time for the opening when the rain finally stopped, and as a bright sun shone through, a clear rainbow could be seen over the Jamuna in the horizon. “It’s a miracle,” said Arun, a college student and Art of Living follower who has come from Kalyan to attend the event, as he flashed a mobile camera to capture the sight.”Jamuna pyaasi hai, isiliye Indra Dev swayam unke pyaas baarish banker aye hai (The Yamuna was thirsty , which is why the rain god Indra has himself come down to quench her thirst),” said former supreme court chief justice RC Lahoti who gave the inaugural speech, referring to the controversy over the festival that had raged in the courts until Thursday.On Friday, the Foundation deposited an amount of Rs 25 lakh with the court, part payment for the Rs 5 crore penalty that it has been directed to pay by the courts for flouting environmental norms with the massive structures built for the event.AOL founder Ravi Shankar too made an oblique comment on the controversy. “When you want to do something there are obstacles. It only goes to show that it is a very significant work we have undertaken. Let us care for the environment, for each other. We love nature because it’s in our DNA,” he said. The Foundation also gave Krishi Ratna Puraskar awards to five farmers who had taken up organic farming.Prime minister Narendra Modi attended the opening ceremony of AOL’s World Culture Festival and said that foundations such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s were symbolical of India’s soft power. “But in order to truly realise its potential, we must learn to appreciate it ourselves, instead of only criticising us.” Modi who sat through several of the dance performances, said that on his state visit to Mongolia he had been felicitated by the Foundation and had been surprised to find that there were very few Indian faces among the members there. “It is an indication of how much we have to offer to the world,” he said.Among the other dignitaries present were Rajya Sabha deputy speaker PJ Kurien, Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister of France, Karu Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankan speaker, several princes from the UAE and senior politicians from European. Hakubun Shimomura, an MP from Japan and its former minister of education, culture, sports, science & technology, read out a message from prime minister Shinzo Abe, in which he thanked the AOL for its rebuilding efforts after the devastating tsunami that hit the country exactly five years ago. Among others who spoke were Michael A.S. Adhin, vice president of Surinam, whose speech in Hindi and English, referred to India as “vishwaguru Bharat”.Among the highlights of the evening’s performance were performances of Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam and Kathakali by thousands of dancers. Then, 500 artistes from Latin America performed, led by well-known singer Patricia Sosa.

Sri Sri gets PM Narendra Modi’s pat for ‘Kumbh mela of art’

The three-day cultural extravaganza organised by Art of Living on the banks of Yamuna in east Delhi opened on Friday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi heaping praise on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar saying he had “introduced” India to the world. Though rains threatened to disrupt the grand opening ceremony, the event went ahead as per schedule amid colourful cultural performances by artists from across the world and addresses by foreign dignitaries.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terming the event as “the kumbh fair of art”, Modi said even rains were “testing” the organisers. He told the near 1.5 lakh crowd to take pride in their cultural heritage. “India has the cultural heritage and richness which the whole world is looking for. We can fulfil those needs… But it can only happen, if we take pride in our heritage. If we keep cursing it, then why the world will look at us,” he said while praising Ravi Shankar’s efforts in this regard.Former French prime minister Dominique Villepin, Nepal’s deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa, UAE’s cultural minister Al Nahayan were among the foreign dignitaries present.Art of Living made to pay Rs 25 lakh, granted 3 weeks time to pay Rs 5 crore compensationTo ensure that the Art of Living (AoL) forks out Rs5 crore environment compensation for tampering Yamuna floodplains, the National Green Tribunal asked the NGO to pay Rs25 lakh on Friday while granting them three weeks to pay up the remaining amount.The NGT was hearing a fresh application by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan after they highlighted that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organization had to pay the compensation before the event began.”They (Art of Living) would pay a sum of Rs 25 lakh today itself and the balance amount within 3 weeks from today. If the amount is not paid within the time now allowed, then the amount of Rs 2.5 crore to be paid by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and would stand attached in the hands of Ministry and/ or in the Bank,” the chairperson bench of justice Swatanter Kumar said in its interim order on Friday. The counsel for DDA or Art of Living did not confirm late till Friday if Rs.25 lakh had been paid. Read More

NGT vs AOL: How the green tribunal flouted its own order against Sri Sri’s organisation

New Delhi: It seems polluting our natural resources would be completely acceptable to the national green watchdog — the National Green Tribunal (NGT), if the polluter is ready to pay a fine for it.

That is the precedent NGT has set in the high decibel case of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar headed Art of Living (AOL) Foundation’s World Culture Festival whose venue, the Yamuna floodplains, stand in danger of permanent damage because the NGT allowed the foundation to walk away with just a fine.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

The AOL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar by taking a U-turn on his earlier statement has given up the idea of going to jail and instead has paid Rs 25 lakh as part of the Rs 5 crore fine on Friday.

On the other hand, showing leniency towards the ‘godman’s’ global festival, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) besides allowing to pay in instalment, has also given a three-week period for paying the balance amount of the initial fine.

Probably, the green tribunal – the highest regulator on environmental issues keeping in mind that the ‘show must go on’ forgot its own judgment of January 2015 – ‘Polluter Pays’ principle’ and allowed the foundation to go ahead with ‘Pay and Pollute’. This message has gone in public after the NGT allowed the AOL Foundation on 9 March to go ahead with the festival after paying an initial fine of Rs 5 crore.

Despite showing serious displeasure over the turn of events, the NGT allowed dilution of its order passed on 9 March. Hearing the appeal made by the Foundation, the principal bench of the tribunal headed by justice Swatanter Kumar on Friday allowed the AOL Foundation to pay Rs 25 lakh and the rest within three weeks. The original judgment had clearly asked the organiser of World Culture Festival (WCF) to pay Rs 5 crore before the commencement of the event (11 March).

The foundation appealed the tribunal today that they would be able to pay only Rs 25 lakh, as Rs 5 crore amount was “too big for them” to pay in one go.

What the NGT said on Friday?

The bench said that it was extremely distressed and it was unfortunate for a person (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) of such eminence to make such a statement in public (that he would rather go to jail than pay fine).

What legal experts say?

The legal experts have taken a strong exception to the NGT’s order of 9 March and subsequently that of Friday’s where AOL Foundation has been allowed to go ahead with the show by paying only 5 percent of the initial fine of Rs 5 crore. According to experts, “Technically the tribunal should have taken action on 11 February when the petition was filed. Instead, the NGT has violated its own earlier judgment, which has set a bad precedence in public life.”

Advocate Ritwick Dutta, a counsel for the petitioners said, “NGT’s order has set a bad precedence. This order communicates the message of ‘Pay & Pollute’ and that’s what has happened in this case. AOL Foundation has been allowed to ahead with the mega-event by paying only Rs 25 lakh, and not even the full initial amount of Rs 5 crore! Here the message that has gone to public is very clear – those who have big pockets and right connections can flout the law and escape — be it Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Vijay Mallya.”

“What an irony! In its earlier judgment of 13 January 2015, the tribunal clearly stated that no construction and no celebration of any kind should be allowed on the floodplains of River Yamuna. Here the point is if NGT’s order was violated, why DDA – the implementing agency didn’t stop the foundation from doing it. Second, the NGT in its order said that since the petitioners approached the tribunal late (11 February), the event can’t be stopped. Based on its previous order, the tribunal could have taken cognizance and stopped it, rather than waiting for a citizen to come up with a PIL. The case dragged almost for a month thus giving time to the foundation to have a full-fledged construction. This is ridiculous,” added Dutta.

Shehzad Poonawala, legal and social activist remarked, “I’m thoroughly disappointed by the lack of spine and conviction by the NGT in upholding its own order and principles of environment protection. It has allowed the ‘Polluter pays’ principle to be inverted into a ‘Pay and Pollute’ principle (very little of course). Moreover, relaxing the amount of fine and payment period! What’s worse is the convenient concessions granted to a law breaker, who happens to be a good friend of our PM! What message does it send to others? Break environmental guidelines, challenge the courts, be brazen and the tribunal/court will back off? Had the NGT and authorities acted in time, the event could have been stayed and shifted to a safer zone, and no controversy would have taken place.”

What others say?

“Though I’m not a petitioner but as an activist I feel the tribunal should have acted on its own as it’s the NGT bench in 2015 banned all kinds of activities on Yamuna floodplains. But surprisingly it didn’t. It’s only after we moved a petition, whatever little we could do has taken place. We expected a strong action from NGT as it’s the apex court to ensure country’s environmental protection,” an activist working on Yamuna issue said on condition of anonymity.

Badal Saroj, central committee member of CPM said, “The opposition parties have raised this issue in the Parliament. But, right from the beginning I have been maintaining that justice Swatanter Kumar might have been vocal during the hearing of this case, but when it comes to issuing order and taking a bold stand, he fails. It happened this time again, even today. This is very unfortunate. The NGT should have taken a strong and uncompromising stand, as damaging ecological system and bio-diversity is not only national but a global issue.”

What AOL Foundation says?

Advocate Akshama Nath, AOL Foundation’s counsel said, “We’ve paid Rs 25 lakh and we pleaded that the rest amount would be paid over a period of four weeks. But, the tribunal has given us three weeks period. The important point here is that NGT has mentioned that the amount is not penalty but for environment compensation for developing bio-diversity, which is also our objective.”

World Culture Festival: Rain plays spoilsport in Sri Sri’s mega show

New Delhi: Heavy rain played spoilsport at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s controversial mega cultural festival that began on Friday, with thousands of participants stuck on roads due to traffic snarls and pathways leading to the venue on the Yamuna floodplain turning into mush.

As the dusty Yamuna floodplain turned to slush, it made walking virtually impossible and vehicles got stuck. Those who were already inside ran for cover to escape the downpour.

A scene from the World Culture Festival. IbnliveA scene from the World Culture Festival. Ibnlive

A scene from the World Culture Festival. Ibnlive

Organisers wore a look of concern as the skies darkened over Delhi. The dark clouds along with rolling thunder followed by heavy rains left the organisers, participants and the onlookers drenched and miserable.

People were seen covering themselves with plastic sheets. Some others took out brightly coloured umbrellas.

“It is slippery. The road leading to the venue has turned marshy. I had to walk carefully,” said Anuj Kumar, who had come from north Delhi to attend the cultural jamboree.

Policemen and volunteers tried to manage the crowd, but could not control the chaos.

As per the forecast of two leading weather agencies, the IMD and Skymet Weather Services, the showers on Friday followed by heavy rain may cause disruptions on Saturday and Sunday as well. The World Culture Festival is being held here from March 11 to 13.

These agencies told IANS that rain with thundershowers would continue over the weekend.

“Tomorrow (Saturday) and the day after that, there are fair chances that it would rain in the early morning, late afternoon and evening, with strong winds and thundershowers. It may spoil the event,” said Mahesh Palawat, director of Skymet, India’s only private weather forecasting agency.

The event has already landed in controversy for allegedly flouting the environmental regulations and degrading the ecology of the Yamuna floodplain.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation informed the authorities that three lakh people would attend the event. However, in its promotional literature, it had claimed that 35 lakh people would come from 155 countries.

The organisers had told the National Green Tribunal that they had spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event.

Traffic snarls also caused hardships to those who had to catch their trains from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, which is not very far from the event venue adjoining the busy Delhi-Noida flyway. Many train travellers had to walk more than three kilometres carrying their luggages on their shoulders.

“I had to walk to catch my train to Mumbai and had a tough time because I was not aware that the road to Nizamuddin railway station will be choked,” said Sachin Balakrishnan from Mayur Vihar.

IANS

#SriSriYamunaMess: PM to attend Art of Living event; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar can deposit fine by Friday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday will attend inaugural function of the three-day World Culture Festival being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art Of Living (AoL) foundation.

AOL foundation has time till Friday to give initial environmental compensation of Rs.5 crore for holding its World Culture Festival on Yamuna flood plains, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on Thursday.

Preparations on for the World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh Sharma/FirstpostPreparations on for the World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Preparations on for the World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

The organisation appeared to be softening its stance after initially saying that it will not pay the fine.

Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s comments in the morning that he would not pay Rs.5 crore fine slapped by the NGT and was prepared to go jail if the court wanted him to, triggered speculation about the course likely to be adopted by AoL.

However, after a hearing at NGT during the day (Thursday), AoL said that things were changing every moment and they have time to comply with the tribunal’s order.

“We have lot of time as the event is beginning tomorrow (Friday) evening. Things are changing every moment. We are focusing on things to make the event successful,” Akshama Nath, counsel for Art of Living (AoL) told IANS when asked if the foundation was willing to pay the fine.

In a related development, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking to block the holding of three-day event which will have performances from artists of different countries.

The apex court also asked PIL petitioner Anil Kumar to approach the NGT as it was a specialised forum to address the issue and refused to hear the plea mentioned by a counsel in the post lunch sitting of the court.

The weather office’s prediction of heavy rains for Saturday gave anxious moments to the organisers who were giving final touches to their preparation for the event that will conclude on Sunday.

“Heavy rain very likely at isolated places over Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi,” said an official announcement for March 12 (Saturday) by the India Meteorological Department.

The NGT had on Wednesday imposed an initial fine of Rs.5 crore on AoL headed by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and said it should be held liable for restoration of “damage caused to environment, ecology, biodiversity and aquatic life of the river”.

A day later, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in a TV interview that he will not mind going to jail if the court wants him to.

Asked if he would go to jail for refusing to pay the fine for the three-day World Culture Festival here, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: “Yes, I will.”

“The structure created for the event is temporary and will be dismantled after the event. We wanted to create awareness about Yamuna through this event,” he added.

During its brief hearing on Thursday, the NGT asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) if they had issued directions to AoL for the event in accordance with its Wednesday’s order.

DPCC said in its reply that “directions will be issued soon after the expert committee completes the inspection of the site”.

The expert committee comprising senior officials from Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Water Resources and DPCC inspected the Yamuna flood plains on Thursday.

“The Art of Living has not got the permission from the department of Water resources, Delhi Police, department of fire control and safety for the event. We will move the application in the tribunal regarding the safety of the stage and the venue tomorrow (Friday) morning if required,” Sanjay Parikh told reporters after the hearing.

Parikh is counsel of Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan which filed a petition with the NGT against holding of the festival.

In Goa, Congress demanded an apology from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for use of army in making pontoon bridges on Yamuna.

In its order on Wednesday, the NGT had also imposed a fine of Rs.5 lakh on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Rs.1 lakh on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for failing to discharge their duties.

IANS

Terror threat? On eve of mega event, Yamuna floodplain turns into a security fortress

With terror threat looming large, there has been a heightened level of security preparedness at Yamuna floodplains where the World Culture Festival 2016, being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, is due to kick off from 11 March.

The mega 3-day event will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and 172 dignitaries, including heads of states, ministers and parliamentarians from across the world will participate. It will see a congregation of nearly 35 lakh people from around the globe, including 20,000 artists from 155 countries.

The festival is being hosted across 27 acres and is said to be one of the biggest cultural gatherings in recent times. The grand stage, which has been declared “unsafe” by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in its structural safety report, is spread over seven acres of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land between Barapullaha Road and DND flyover.

Although there is no official confirmation on the total number of deployment, sources said more than 4,000 personnel of the Delhi Police and its specialised units like the Quick Response Teams, Special Cell, Crime Branch, Special Branch and Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and dog squad are at work for the event. At least 1,500 officers, including deputy commissioners of police, assistant commissioners of police and inspectors, will be on duty at 69 enclosures at the venue. Another 500 officials will be pressed into service in and outside the hotel where the dignitaries, guests and artistes will stay.

Site of World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh SharmaSite of World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh Sharma

Site of World Culture Festival. Image courtesy: Naresh Sharma

In addition, Special Protection Group (SPG), National Security Guards (NSG), paramilitary forces and Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) personnel have been deployed at the venue to ensure foolproof security of the prime minister and other dignitaries.

The inner enclosures close to the stage and sitting arrangements for dignitaries will be guarded by the SPG, NSG, Delhi Police’s PM security unit, paramilitary forces and Quick Response Team of the city police.

A total of 170 CCTV cameras, including pan–tilt–zoom camera (PTZ camera), and six luggage scanners have been installed. The Delhi Police is also considering using drones for aerial surveillance. The venue has 13 entry points guarded by CISF personnel. Entry number one to nine will have restricted entry for VIPs and VVIPs who will be issued special passes and parking stickers. Gate number 10 to 13 will be for the general public.

“No pointed and sharp objects and lighters will be allowed at the venue. No one will be allowed to carry bags beyond the pontoon bridges built up at the venue to cross the Yamuna. Visitors can carry only water bottles with them,” Major General (retired) SP Sinha, the security head of Art of Living for the event, told Firstpost while giving details of the security arrangements.

He said regular meetings are being held with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), SPG and Delhi Police officials to ensure safety and security of the participants. “We are getting support and cooperation of all agencies of the central as well as state governments,” he added.

Asked if the authorities are capable of conducting a hassle-free event, , he replied, “Hundred percent fool-proof security can never be guaranteed, but we are trying our level best. A total of 45,000 trained volunteers of the Art of Living have also been pressed into service to co-operate with the police officials.”

Asked whether the CPWD has declared the stage unsafe for the prime minister, Sinha said a special stage with container base has been set been set up for the PM and his Cabinet colleagues.

On Plan B in case of emergencies, he said volunteers will be deployed at every five yard at pontoon bridges (which can bear the load of 15,000 people at a time) to control and assist the crowd. “In addition, officials of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) will be present with their 12 boats to tackle any emergency,” he added.

The participants will have to bear bumpy rides and dust to reach the venue. Spraying of pesticides and mosquito replants is going on. Special perfumes will be sprayed during the 3-day programme to kill the odour coming from Yamuna, which has turned into a drain.

“Spreading the message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – One World Family, said Dinesh Ghodke “the World Culture Festival 2016 is a celebration of The Art of Living’s 35 years of service to humanity, spirituality and human values to over 370 million people across 155 countries. The festival emphasizes co-existence and celebrates diversity by bringing together the power of 3.5 million people on a common platform”.

Over 37,000 people will perform at the festival in 3 days. World’s largest stage-WCF will witness the world’s largest stage set up over an area of seven acres. This is an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the ‘Largest temporary stage’ in the world.

More than 20,000 international guests are expected. Sizable contingents from South America, Mongolia, Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Pakistan among others will take part in the event. A total of 650 drummers will arrive from South Africa and 1,000 artists from China will perform here.

Ready to go to jail but won’t pay Rs 5-cr fine to NGT, says Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

New Delhi: Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Thursday said he does not mind going to jail if the court wants him to, but declined shelling out money for the imposed fine.

Asked during an interview by a TV channel if he would go to jail having refused to pay the fine for the three-day International Culture Festival proposed to be held in the Yamuna floodplains here, Ravi Shankar said: “Yes, I will”.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. ReutersSri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. Reuters

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a file photo. Reuters

He also said that he would not pay the fine of Rs 5 crore slapped by the National Green Tribunal.

The National Green Tribunal, which found several environmental violations by the organisers, blamed the delay on the part of environmental activists in raising the issue before it which compelled it to grant permission for event.

However, on Wednesday, the green court gave a go-ahead to the World Culture Festival, organised by Art of Living Foundation, on the condition that it pay an advance fine of Rs 5 crore.

The spiritual guru also said that the structure being made for the event was temporary and will be dismantled after the event.

“The structure created for the event is temporary and will be dismantled after the event. We wanted to create awareness about Yamuna through this event,” said Shankar.

Earlier on Monday, President Pranab Mukherjee decided to pull out of a cultural extravaganza being organised by Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a controversy raged over the event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the event on Friday and the President was to attend the valedictory function on Sunday.

“The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances,” an official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan said on Monday.

The AOL Foundation expects 35 lakh people to attend the function, concerns have been raised by experts about the likely damage to the environment that may be caused by holding it on the flood plains of the already polluted river in east Delhi.

The AOL foundation, which is organising the function, will have yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers by Sanskrit scholars and traditional cultural performances from around the world.

The three-day event will be held from 11-13 March.

IANS

Yamuna Expressway Accident: Victim’s son says police objected to mentioning Smriti Irani’s car

Abhishek Nagar, the victim’s son has said that the police objected when they mentioned in the FIR that the accident was caused by a car in in Smriti Irani’s convoy. He added that they were not shown the car which caused the accident and the only the number of the car was given by the police. He added that they’ve written letters to PM Modi, President Mukherjee and CM Akhilesh Yadav, the UP governor and the District Magistrate . <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The children of a doctor killed in the accident on Saturday night had contradicted Irani’s claim that she had tried to help the injured and ensure they reached hospital.The Congress has hit out at Irani over the icnident. Congress leader P.L Punia said Irani, being a responsible citizen and a minister in the NDA Government, should have helped the girl. ‘I don’t want to go into the details as to how did the accident took place, but she must have offered help. This is very irresponsible on her part,’ he added. Echoing similar sentiments, Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said it is a very strange situation that has been created.‘Nobody does accidents willingly. But when you are a person, who represents the government, you should have stopped and helped the victim,’ Dikshit said.‘Smriti Irani is being attacked for a long period now because of her behavior. She does not think herself to be a common man. The kind of behavior she has with the vice-chancellors, the way she gave speech in the Parliament, she is behaving more like a queen and less like an elected person,’ he added.The daughter of the victim, who died after Irani’s cavalcade hit their vehicle, yesterday said that she pleaded before her with folded hands but the Union HRD Minister didn’t provide them any help. However, eyewitness Manoj Chopra contradicted the statement made by the victim’s daughter and said Irani came out of the car immediately and made calls for help.Irani’s convoy was caught in a car pile-up following an accident on the Yamuna Expressway on Saturday. However, Irani, who was on her way to Delhi, escaped unhurt.In a series of tweets following the accident, the HRD Minister had earlier informed of her well-being and thanked the people for their concern. “Tried to help the injured who were lying on the road for quiet sometime and ensured they reach a hospital. Pray for their safety,” she said. Irani said that she also ensured the people injured in the accident were taken to a hospital and thanked others for helping out.An FIR has also been registered in connection with this accident.

Despite ‘unstable’ stage Narendra Modi likely to attend Art of Living event

Even as the NGT asked Art of Living Foundation to fork out Rs.5 crore for damaging Yamuna floodplains, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go ahead his commitment to inaugurate the NGO’s mega-event to mark their 35th anniversary. On Tuesday, the Special Protection Group, the elite force in-charge of the PM’s security had warned that the venue is not safe.Delhi Police had approached the SPG citing several security concerns, including no safety certification to the huge stage built at the site and no way to escort out the prime minister in case of any stampede or fire. In fact, on Wednesday, the counsel for Delhi government informed the NGT that the Central Public Works Department had deemed the 40-feet stage at the event’s venue to be structurally unstable.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources said Modi has, however, given his commitment to the Art of Living guru and so he is exploring other ways to be part of the grand show. He is exploring two options: One to address the gathering on the Yamuna banks from atop a stage to be quickly built on the nearby DND flyover or to resort to video-conferencing to inaugurate it. The counsel for Art of Living informed the NGT on Wednesday that they are considering an alternative of building an altogether new stage for the 16 dignitaries, including the PM, that will be seated on the grand dais.Delhi Police has not yet given security clearance for the event. Sources said the police is not satisfied with just two temporary pontoon bridges not enough for evacuation in case of any stampede.

Defence Ministry mulls framing ‘clearer’ policy on army’s involvement in civil work

Controversy over army being engaged for building pontoon bridges over the Yamuna River bed here for a private event World Cultural Festival (WCF) refuses to die down.Amidst this, the ministry of defence (MoD), sources said, is considering to work on a new framework that could spell out when or when not to take the armed forces services in such situations.It was not immediately clear what exact purpose will the new formulation serve as the army rule book already lays down the situations in which it can be requisitioned and deployed in aid of civil authorities. These are for maintenance of law and order, of essential services, assistance during natural calamities and any other assistance to civil authorities.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, sources said that the defence secretary has been asked to look into framing of a new clearer” policy that could define the scope of Army deployment ranging from events as big as the WCF to cases when they are used to rescue children trapped in borewells.Questions are being raised after the Indian Army built pontoon bridges over the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation’s upcoming three day event starting March 11. Sources in the army maintain that it had raised reservations to directions from MoD to divert its resources for a private event but had to buckle under pressure from the political executive. According to organisers, about 3.5 million people are expected to attend the event even as president Pranab Mukherjee, who too was supposed to come for the valedictory function, pulled out citing ‘unavoidable circumstances’.Besides the issue of army’s involvement, the entire event has generated controversy for flouting environmental norms and on Wednesday the National Green Tribunal asked the organisers to fork out Rs5 crores as compensation for damage to the flood plain.Had reservation Questions are being raised after the Indian Army built pontoon bridges over the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation’s upcoming three day event starting March 11. Sources in the army maintain that it had raised reservations to directions from MoD to divert its resources for a private event but had to buckle under pressure from the political executive.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event preparations on Yamuna floodplains an ecological disaster: Delhi HC

Taking note of news reports on the Art of Living event to take place on the banks of Yamuna, Delhi High Court on Wednesday said it appears to be a “disaster” from the “ecological point of view”.”That (AOL event) is a disaster from ecological point of view due to removal of the shrubs and trees. The area has been flattened. You (government) have given permission for a big pandal on the flood plain,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said, adding, “we are only going by newspaper reports”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The observation was made during hearing of a PIL on the issue of unauthorized constructions on the flood plain of Yamuna in the Jaitpur and Mithapur areas of the national capital.The court said that the government should consider making the structures in the area compliant with building bye-laws as well as norms for seismic zone IV if the unauthorized colonies there were going to be regularised. It said that making the structures in these areas compliant with the norms was important because if an earthquake or flood hits Delhi, “these areas would be most vulnerable and there could be massive loss of lives”.It advised the authorities, including the Lieutenant Governor, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the municipal corporation to take action against the builders who “duped many poor people” into buying houses in that area. “Even if demolition is not carried out, police action should be there,” the bench said.Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for DDA, told the court that in a recent meeting held by a joint task team, set up to address the issue, it was decided to prevent further unauthorized construction in the two areas.The ASG said an action plan has been formulated for “containment” of construction in the area by setting up CCTV cameras, initiating proceedings against people engaged in fresh construction, confiscation of building material and various other measures, including police patrolling.

No permission for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s AOL event: Water Resources Ministry to NGT

Faced with tough questions from National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Water Resources ministry on Wednesday told the panel it has not granted permission for ‘World Cultural Festival’ being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation from March 11 while another ministry said no clearance was required for temporary structures.Responding to questions from the green panel, the Water Resources ministry distanced itself from the controversy, saying it has not given any clearance for the three-day event. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, whereas, told the the NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar that no environment clearance was required for setting up temporary structures on Yamuna flood plains.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ministry’s submission came after the tribunal, which was hearing pleas seeking cancellation of the festival on the flood plains of Yamuna river, had pulled it up for not filing an affidavit regarding environmental clearances.During the hearing, the green panel asked the counsel appearing for Art of Living (AOL) to take instructions not to put enzymes into river Yamuna without Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s permission, to which the foundation later agreed.The tribunal also asked the Centre, Delhi govt, DDA if any environment impact assessment was carried out regarding preparation and consequential effects of the festival. The tribunal was informed by the Delhi government that the police, after inspecting the site, had asked the foundation to show if they have structural safety clearance of pontoon bridge and vehicle parking clearance.Delhi govt also told the bench that CPWD has asked the foundation to build a separate stage for the Prime Minister due to issues over structural safety, a claim denied by the AOL which said it was being built for better view of the event.

Cultural extravaganza: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says don’t politicise event; NGT pulls up MoEF

After the Opposition parties on Wednesday raised the issue of the Indian Army’s involvement in the construction of pontoon bridges for the World Culture Festival being organised by Art of Living foundation on the Yamuna floodplains, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar appealed all parties to not politicise the event.Taking to micro-blogging site, Sri Sri said, “I appeal to all parties to not politicize the #WCF2016.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He further added, ” It is (event) to unite all cultures, nations, religions & ideologies. Let’s come together!”
ALSO READ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival on Delhi floodplain riles environmentalist, worries policeHowever, adding to the woes of the Art of Living Foundation, the Ministry of Water Resources informed National Green Tribunal (NGT) that it has not granted permission for ‘World Cultural Festival’ scheduled from March 11 to 13.
ALSO READ Sri Sri extravaganza: NGT poses hard questions to Centre over World Culture Festival The NGT also pulled up Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF for not filing affidavit as asked by it regarding environment clearances. Though the united opposition slammed the Government in Rajya Sabha, the government sprung to the defence of the ‘Art of Living’ guru saying his intentions cannot be doubted as he was committed to protecting the environment. The event is being organised with all permissions, it claimed, adding that the issue cannot be raised in the House as it was being heard by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).But the members were not satisfied and rushed into the Well shouting slogans, forcing a brief adjournment.Meanwhile, the Delhi Police has also raised serious security concerns over the World Culture Festival being organised by the Art of Living foundation on the Yamuna floodplains.A DCP rank officer, who inspected the venue on March 1 along with his team, in a report submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development, Art of Living, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma raised serious question about the preparation and safety arrangements.Amid concerns over security in the wake of fresh terror threats, the Home Ministry has directed Delhi Police to take all possible steps to ensure peace during the event and to ensure that no stampede-like situation arises. With inputs from PTI/ ANI

Watch Live: Ruckus in Rajya Sabha over Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s cultural extravaganza

The use of army soldiers to build bridges on the Yamuna flood plains here for a private event of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave ammunition to Congress to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it was ‘shameful’. The Centre on Tuesday asked the Delhi Police to ensure full security to ‘World Cultural Festival’, organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar here from March 11-13, in the view of “terror threat” in the country.The Home Ministry, in a communication, has advised the national capital’s police to take all possible steps to ensure peace during the three-day event to be held at Yamuna flood plains.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the use of army soldiers to build bridges on the Yamuna flood plains here for a private event of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave ammunition to Congress to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it was “shameful” and asked him is this his type of nationalism and patriotism.

Soldiers building bridge for Art of Living festival ‘shameful, rotten’, say military veterans

Military veterans are slamming the use of Indian Army soldiers for building bridges over the river Yamuna to please a godman as “illegal”, “shameful” and a “rot in governance.” CNN IBN reports of a terror threat at the venue and The Indian Express says Delhi Police has warned of “pandemonium.” The Indian Army on its toes for a godman? Really?!

Around 4:30 am Wednesday IST, Delhi resident Vimlendu Jha, who has opposed the event, posted a video on his Facebook page where a Hindu Mahasabha leader with a flowing beard and dressed in an orange kurta is threatening to kill Jha, calls him a CIA agent and also anti-national, dragging the #JNURow pet phrases across the Yamuna.

Links: World Culture Festival website

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that Army soldiers’ deployment for construction of pontoon bridges over Yamuna river for the controversial three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ being organised by Goodman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation is to ensure safety but Delhi’s cops have drilled a hole into that argument. The Indian Express reports that Delhi Police has written to the Urban Development Ministry warning of “utter chaos and pandemonium.”

Parrikar said the decision to employ soldiers for the construction of the bridges was taken to ensure there is no law and order situation and security threat to lakhs of people expected to attend the three-day event starting from Friday.

 Former military officials reject the explanations given by the minister arguing that that defence forces are meant for protecting country from external security threats.

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: FacebookSri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

“Sending 120 soldiers of the Army to Yamuna floodplains to build bridges for a private cultural extravaganza is absolutely wrong and illegal. The provision of the Army in aid of civil authority is governed by Section 130 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code). This legal clause states that decision to requisition armed forces should be taken by the ‘executive magistrate of the highest rank’, which is the district magistrate, not even the chief minister. And he or she can do it under emergency circumstances such as riots and natural calamities when his or her police force cannot do a particular job,” former IAS officer MG Devasahayam, who has served a stint in the Army, told Firstpost.

It is alarming, he said, that the government is going out of its way to help a controversial programme, which organisers claim will be attended by 3.5 million people, which may cause permanent environmental damage. 

“The event has come under scanner of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which looks after environmental issues. Even the President, the supreme commander of the defence forces, who was to preside over the valedictory function, has refused to attend it. In such a situation, facilitation of such programme is a sign of rotten governance that is going on in the country,” he added.

The president had earlier agreed to attend the opening ceremony on 11 March but later opted out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also not take part in the event on the pretext of “security threat”.

Asked when the Army has been used during Kumbh Mela and even the Commonwealth Games, then why such a hue and cry this time, Major General (retired) Satbir Singh said the defence forces have got a clear cut task to defend the country from external and internal security threats. They are also called to aid the civil authorities in case of natural disasters.

“Our soldiers are not meant for such shit. It is a compromise with the dignity of the country’s defence forces. It is a shame that the government is giving undeserved public resources to an individual in return of his political support,” he added. 

Colonel (retired) Pushpendra Singh also strongly condemned the decision and said that the “Army should not be deployed for any such function. It is meant to secure borders”.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) defended its permission to the event before an NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar. “Heavens will not fall if the function is organised at the venue. We can see what needs to be done to restore the area, but today we are at the threshold of the ceremony,” the DDA is reported to have told the NGT.

As he faced criticism for destroying Yamuna, Art of Living chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sought to placate fears. “I want Yamuna to be clean. We have not cut any tree, some trees have been trimmed only,” he said, adding that his foundation will leave the spot as “a beautiful bio-diversity park”.

On Monday, as pictures of soldiers working on the Yamuna bridge for the event began to circulate, President and Supreme Commander of the Army, Pranab Mukherjee, said he will not attend the World Culture Festival.

An online campaign entitled ‘Don’t destroy the #Yamuna Floodplains – Shift the Art of Living Festival’ on Change.org has so far got 19,545 signatures. The signed petition, which says, “Sri Sri, please stop killing my already dead Yamuna, I beg! Destroying the floodplains is not ‘cultural’, not ‘spiritual’”, will be sent to the president, the prime minister, the chief justice of India, the chairman of the NGT, the chief minister of Delhi and the Art of Living Foundation.

In its journey of 1376 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, 22 km of river Yamuna flows through Delhi. Ironically, this journey of 22 km through the most powerful city of the nation is primarily responsible for choking the river. What enters the city as a revered river unfortunately exits as a drain, a dead water body. Amidst this chaotic ecosystem, floodplains come forth as the only hope for survival of the river.

“As the integral part of the aquatic system of any river, floodplains are the natural space for the river to dissipate its energy. A river with vulnerable and damaged floodplains is one step closer to death, to say the least, it adds,” reads the petition.

Unfortunately, the floodplains of Yamuna in Delhi have already been injured with mega constructions. Akshardham temple, Delhi Transport Corporation’s Depot, Common Wealth Games Village, main office of the Delhi Metro, to name a few, are technically on the floodplains of the Yamuna.

These constructions, however, stand proud and tall despite the NGT orders that restrain any construction, be it temporary or permanent, on the floodplain of the river Yamuna in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is Zone O, which means its ecologically sensitive zone and therefore no construction should be allowed in this area.

While the river struggles to flow, preparations are in full swing to organise the mega event on the floodplains. The event venue is spread over 1,000 acres of floodplain. The area is within 10 km of the Okhla Birds Sanctuary.

(With FP Staff)

NGT poses Sri Sri’s NGO tough questions over Yamuna event

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday came down heavily on the Union environment ministry, Union water resources ministry, Delhi Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and the Art of Living Foundation and asked if they have taken into consideration “the impact of the (Art of Living) event on the river Yamuna’s environment, its floodplains, and its biodiversity, as it is not just for a few hours.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It asked the environment ministry and the water resources ministry if “it was not their responsibility to protect the fragile ecosystem of river Yamuna.” NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar posed a series of uncomfortable questions to the NGO’s counsel, and said the details provided in its application to the DDA were ambiguous and incomplete. “You did not disclose the scale of the preparations,” Kumar said. While the AOL ads said that 3.5 million people will attend the event, its counsel told the court that at any given point of time three lakh people will be present at the venue.The NGO also came under fire for using iron scaffolding to erect 30-ft-tall dais as the DDA had permitted the NGO to use only eco-friendly material. When the NGO’s counsel argued that the scaffolding was not dug into the ground, he countered: “It doesn’t stand to reason that a 30-ft-tall structure can stand without holding on the ground. How is this eco-friendly?”The four-member bench was hearing the final arguments in an on-going matter against global NGO Art of Living Foundation. Delhi-based NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has alleged that Art of Living’s three-day mega event on Yamuna’s floodplains will permanently damage its fragile ecology. Besides, a four-member expert body of the NGT has already recommended that a fine of Rs 120 crore should be slapped against Art of Living Foundation for causing severe and extensive damage to the floodplains.The NGO has erected a stage spanning more than two acres, built pontoon bridges on the river with the help of the Army and visitors will be allowed to park on the river’s floodplains. The tribunal is likely to announce its verdict on Wednesday.

Why did you not consider the event’s environment impact?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday came down heavily on Union environment ministry, Union water resources ministry, the Delhi Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and even the Art of Living Foundation and asked if either of them “considered the impact of the (Art of Living) event on the River Yamuna’s environment, its floodplains or its biodiversity as it is not for just a few hours.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It asked the environment ministry and the water resources ministry if “it was not their responsibility to protect the fragile ecosystem of the River Yamuna.”During Tuesday’s hearing, Art of Living began its final arguments in the case and the NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar posed a series of uncomfortable questions to the NGO’s counsel. “Details in your application to the DDA were ambiguous and incomplete. You did not disclose the scale of the preparations,” Kumar said. While in all advertising material, AOL has publicized that 3.5 million people are going to attend the event, during the hearing they their counsel said that at any given point of time 3 lakh people will be present at the venue.The NGO also came under fire for using iron scaffolding to erect stage 30-feet tall as this was contrary to the DDA’s approval that had asked the NGO to only use eco-friendly material. The NGO’s counsel defended the decision arguing that the scaffolding was not dug into the ground. This prompted the chairperson to say, “It doesn’t stand to reason that a 30-feet tall structure can stand without holding on the ground. How is this eco-friendly structure?”The four-member chairperson bench headed by justice Swatanter Kumar was hearing the final arguments on Tuesday in an on-going matter against global NGO Art of Living Foundation. Delhi-based NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has alleged that Art of Living’s three-day mega-event on Yamuna’s floodplains will permanently damage its fragile ecology. Besides, a four-member expert body of the NGT has already recommended that a fine of Rs.120 crore should be slapped against Art of Living Foundation for causing severe and extensive damage to the floodplains.The NGO has erected a stage spanning more than two acres, built pontoon bridges on the river with the help of the Army and visitors will be allowed to park on the river’s floodplains. The tribunal is likely to announce its verdict on Wednesday.