New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) may have cleared the decks for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s controversial cultural festival and granted his foundation three more weeks to pay Rs.5 crore in environmental damages, but the rain gods were not so forgiving.
During the inaugural celebrations of the World Culture Festival, heavy downpour wreaked havoc. There was complete chaos as thousands of people tried to enter the sprawling venue complex on the marshy floodplains of the river, witnesses said. The performers were seen running helter-skelter during the sudden downpour.
But despite the rain, PM Modi arrived at the World Culture Festival and graced the event with his presence.
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.
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. 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.
It is estimated that the organisers have spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event, which is expected to attract some three lakh participants, including foreigners during the three-day event.
It seems as if the Art of Living foundation is being rebuked by the rain gods for holding the jamboree on the fragile Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.
The NGT had earlier asked the Art of Living Foundation to pay Rs.25 lakh on Friday itself. The remaining part of the compensation they said could be paid in the next three weeks.
In its application, Sri Sri’s foundation said that it is a “charitable organisation and it is difficult” for it to generate Rs.5 crore in a short period.
The court also clarified that Rs.5 crore is not a penalty or fine as was widely reported but an amount imposed on the Art of Living foundation as environmental compensation.
The court authorised the Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take an action against the organisers “if they are found violating any security or pollution norms”.
The tribunal also took an exception to Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shakar’s statement that he would rather go to jail rather than pay Rs.5 crore. “Such a statement is not expected from a person of high stature like that of the AoL founder,” the court said.
The next hearing has been scheduled for April 4.