The World Cultural Festival, a three-day event organized by the Art of Living Foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar starts today. The right bank of river Yamuna, as one moves from Delhi towards Noida, has seen almost a mini-township emerge out of nowhere in the past one month.
As with anything these days, the ‘mega event’ has become known more for the controversies surrounding it than the event itself. Let us look at some of these issues:
Is this event an environmental disaster?
Maximum noise that has been raised is about the environmental damage that this event is causing to the ‘fragile’ riverbed. Having been involved with Raahgiri and NMT movement in Gurgaon, I can hardly disagree with anyone who wants to do good for the environment. I am a self-professed environmental activist, in a way.
But honestly, this is a large sand bank where nothing grows. It has no trees. It has no real wildlife, unless you look at the birds that are there in the Okhla barrage area, an area that is a birdwatcher’s delight. But this area itself, I am not too sure.
In any case, Yamuna in Delhi is hardly a river. It is almost a stagnant pool of dirty, unfit even for irrigation, water. But does that mean we make it worse? Not really.
Having said that, however, we have seen the Kumbah Mela in Haridwar and Allahabad. Both of them do not just this, but a lot more along the river banks, and for a longer duration. These huge events have active support of the administration, irrespective of who is in power.
But, what about the structure constructed for the event? That is environmental unfriendly
I am sure nothing permanent has come up there. At least one cannot see anything that is permanent. It is all like those big pandals that are generally created for large events all over the country, and dismantled later. Sure, the scale of this one is a lot bigger.
So, if the organisers can be mandated to take away each and every bit that they have brought in here for the event once the event is over, there would be nothing that would remain there that shouldn’t have been there.
In fact, if I were involved in giving clearance for this show, I would have imposed a strict fee for holding the event, but an even higher fine for not cleaning up at the culmination of the event. I would also have secured a decent bank guarantee to ensure that if the clean-up doesn’t happen as promised, the guarantee would be utilized invoked.
What about the NGT fine imposed?
The NGT should have gotten involved a lot earlier than it did. And, as I said earlier, my emphasis would have been a lot more on the post-event cleanup.
What about the AOL foundation’s refusal to pay fine?
This is totally unacceptable. The NGT is the Supreme Court’s mandated body, and no one has the right to mock its orders. You may challenge it, you may dislike it, but to openly say that you won’t pay the fine imposed is not done. Defying court orders like this can never do the nation any good. Imagine if all started doing so, there will be no rule of law. So, I will disagree with even the thought of saying no to the fine imposed, leave alone actually carrying out the threat.
OK, if most of the issues are not grave, what other objections could there be?
I am generally against jamborees, irrespective of their colour or political affiliations or whatever the reason might be. And when it makes movement within the city, already gridlocked at the best of times, even worse, I find it totally unnecessarily. I think of the wasted fuel, a patient getting stuck on way to hospital, a person getting late for a meeting and so on and think, is it worth it?
I also look at how it stretches the already overworked and stressed security apparatus and again think, is it worth it?
Most importantly, I am against jamborees also because of the huge waste of resources and money on them. I would be happier using that fund for something more worthwhile for nation-building.