Prez to skip Art of Living's world cultural festival

Prez to skip Art of Living's world cultural festival

Prez to skip Art of Living's world cultural festival
President Pranab Mukherjee has decided not to attend the Art of Living Foundation’s world cultural festival scheduled to begin here from March 11, amid a controversy over holding of the three-day mega event on the flood plains of the Yamuna.

Though there was no official statement from the President’s office, PTI quoted a Rashtrapati Bhavan official as saying, “The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances.” The President had earlier consented to attend the valedictory ceremony of the mega cultural festival scheduled on Sunday.

Being organised under the aegis of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, the gala event has hit a road-block with an environment activist Manoj Mishra recently filing a petition before the National Green Tribunal seeking an order to stop the holding of the event on Yamuna flood plains.

In his petition, Mishra pleaded the tribunal for imposition of “exemplary fine” on the government agencies including the Delhi Development Authority for granting its permission and the Art of Living Foundation “for damaging the environment and their non-compliance of the orders of the tribunal.”

The tribunal is expected to pass an order on Mishra’s petition on Tuesday, even as preparations for holding of the three-day event by its organiser were on full swing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the festival on March 11.

According to PTI, the Indian Army, which has already built a pontoon bridge on the Yamuna for the upcoming cultural festival, is likely to build one more such bridge to ease movement of lakhs of people to be making a beeline to the venue to participate in the event.

A separate bridge has been erected by the public works department. “Lakhs of people are expected to turn up. There is a question of law and order and also fears of stampede. Permission has been granted by authorities concerned to host the event. If a permission has been given, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything is run smoothly," the news agency quoted a defence sources as saying.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had asked the defence secretary to look into the issue, it added. While organisers of the event are expecting participation of over 3 million people in the festival, a committee appointed by the NGT recently recommended imposing of a fine of Rs 120 crore on the Art of Living foundations, observing that the construction work for the festival caused environment damages on Yamuna floodplains.

In an interview to a television channel, however, Sri Sri Ravishankar described the committee’s report as “completely biased”, saying the Art of Living Foundation should be “rewarded” for organising such an event.
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