New Delhi: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organization has told India’s top environmental court that it cannot deposit the five crores ordered by judges before the event begins today on the banks of the River Yamuna in Delhi. The spiritual leader’s Art of Living foundation said it will pay 25 lakhs today and the rest within three weeks.However, the organizers of the three-day festival which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said they want the five-crore payment to go towards the cost of creating a biodiversity park at the venue, which covers 1,000 acres on the Yamuna’s floodplains.
Yesterday, Sri Sri, 59, told NDTV, “We will go to jail but not pay a penny. We have done nothing wrong.” The court remarked that the comment “is not expected from someone of Sri Sri’s stature” while declaring that the five crores will be treated not as a fine but as compensation for damages to the environment.
On Wednesday, the National Green Tribunal berated both the organizers and the government for failing to protect the venue’s delicate ecosystem. The court then asked for five crores with the warning of more to follow, and said a park must be created after the festival ends.
After today, the Art of Living will owe the court 4.75 crores. If it does not pay up, the green tribunal said it will collect part of a 2.5 crore grant that has been sanctioned by the Culture Ministry for the foundation.
“There is no controversy. Sri Sri is known for resolving controversies,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Sri Sri has described the event as a “Cultural Olympics” with musical performances on a seven-acre stage, mass meditation sessions and prayers led by Sanskrit scholars.