A united opposition in Rajya Sabha today slammed the Government for allowing Indian Army to be used for a private event of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation, saying the event itself on the ecologically fragile flood plains of Yamuna was an environmental disaster.
Government sprung to the defence of the ‘Art of Living’ guru saying his intentions cannot be doubted as he was committed to protecting 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.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (Cong) gave notice under rule 267 seeking adjournment of proceedings to discuss the issue but the Deputy Chairman P J Kurien ruled that the former’s notice was not in order but he was allowing the issue to be raised as a Zero Hour submission.
Terming the construction of temporary structure on the flood plains of Yamuna for Art of Living World Culture Festival from February 11 to 13 as “destruction unseen in history”, Yadav said NGT had earlier given orders disallowing contruction activity on the ecologically fragile zone and DDA had cancelled permission twice.
He wanted to know “under what pressure was Indian Army deployed to build pontoon bridge for one person.”
Demanding immediate stoppage of the construction, he said, “What function is he (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) doing? Kya tamasha kar raha hai (what drama is he doing)?”
Kurien asked members not to criticise anybody who cannot come and defend himself in the House.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) asked “can Indian Army be roped in to assist a private function... it is highly irregular ... for Army to be called in to create facilities for a private function.”
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Ravi Shankar was committed to environment protection and the programme was “being conducted with all permissions and is not illegal.”
Azad said he was not against ‘Art of Living’ foundation or any cultural festival but was concerned about environment, bio-diversity and ecology.
The government, rightly so, became a great champion of environment at the recent climate summit at Paris but what was happening in the capital was of concern, he said and asked why no environment clearance was taken for the function and “who issued permission to build pontoon bridge.”