Dear Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, happy birthday! As you celebrate your 62nd birthday, we have decided to look back at your accomplishments. A self-styled godman, spiritual leader, founder of Art of Living and the ‘destroyer of the floodplains of Yamuna’.
Yes, that’s what you did when you decided to organise your World Cultural Festival 2016 on the floodplains of an already dying Yamuna in Delhi. Violating the order of National Green Tribunal (NGT) that didn’t allow any construction on the floodplains of Yamuna, you built a 40-feet-long stage, invited dignitaries from 155 countries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and why? To attract “international focus” to the condition of Yamuna?
Mr Ravi Shankar, on your birthday, the farmers of Yamuna bank and environmentalists have a special message for you.
‘It’s All Over for Us’
The people that suffered the most from Sri Sri’s “Olympics of Culture” were the farmers who cultivate their crops in Yamuna floodplains.
It takes a lot of effort to cultivate the crops (after the event). The bulldozers and rollers have rendered the land barren, but we have no other means of income. For generations, we have relied on farming and selling milk.
Sukhbir Singh, Farmer
Some farmers even claimed that when the Art of Living volunteers were ‘preparing’ the bank of Yamuna for the event, they bulldozed their farms.
I had sown the seeds of my crops. Gourd, arbi, tomatoes, all the crops were almost ready. They ran a bulldozer all over it. We had taken a loan for our crops. Now, if we aren’t able to pay that back then it will be a huge loss for us. If PM Modi wouldn’t have given permission, would Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have organised an event here?
In December 2017, the NGT held Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Art of Livingresponsible for the damage to the floodplains of Yamuna and slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore.
However, environmental experts are of the view that the damage has been done.
During monsoon, the main character of the floodplain is to absorb the excess water and recharge our water table but that isn’t happening. It looks like a playground. It wasn’t supposed to look like a playground. It was supposed to be a wetland, an ecologically sensitive zone, which was destroyed and plundered by this baba.
Vimlendu Jha, Environmental Activist
Anand Arya, a petitioner in the case against Art of Living, claims that the World Culture Festival caused a minimum damage of Rs 9 crore per year.
Loss of ground water recharge capacity is to the tune of 3,000 cubic metres per hectare. If you calculate its cost at just the simple cost of transportation 15 paise per litre, it comes to Rs 4.5 lakh. Now, multiply it by 200 hectares, it comes to Rs 9 crores minimum. So, now this Rs 9 crore worth of ground water recharge we have lost in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Anand Arya, Petitioner
So, to wrap it up, over two years have passed since the World Cultural Festival was held in 2016, and neither did Art of Living meet its target of 35 lakh visitors, nor has the situation of the Yamuna river changed. In fact, the condition of the river has only deteriorated due to the attempts Sri Sri Ravi Shankar made to restore it.—The Quint