Saiyan Bhaye Kotwal Ab Dar Kahe Ka seems to be the message being conveyed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the so-called spiritual guru with a worldwide following, when today he told NDTV that "We have not done anything wrong...we will go to jail but not pay a penny."
It may be mentioned here that this notion of super-confidence is not misplaced as on the eve of Republic Day this year only the government of India has awarded the second top most civilian honour i.e. Padma Vibhushan to him.
This afternoon, India's top green court was informed that the 59-year-old's organisation has so far not deposited the five-crore penalty judges have ordered ahead of his mega festival which begins tomorrow on the banks of the River Yamuna in Delhi amid environmental concerns.
The National Green Tribunal has warned that the five-crore levy it has ordered will almost certainly be followed by a much larger bill prepared by its experts.
Sri Sri, who heads the Art of Living Foundation, has declared the three-day event a "World Culture Festival". Yesterday, the National Green Tribunal was not sparse in its censuring of either his organization or a slew of government departments for ignoring the potential damage to the Yamuna's floodplains, where 1,000 acres are being used to host the event. "This is like a Cultural Olympics... normally, something like this should be welcomed," said Sri Sri to NDTV.
The PM is likely to attend tomorrow's opening session, unlike President Pranab Mukherjee, who opted out earlier this week.
The temporary construction at the venue -which includes a 7-acre stage and pontoon or floating bridges over the river - will combine with lakhs of attendees to irreversibly corrode the fragile ecosystem of the area, activists had alleged in court. Sri Sri denied this, and said that though his volunteers may, after the event, create a biodiversity park on the floodplains, "It will be because we want to -not because it is part of the court order."
According to a report by NDTV he also denied that the army's construction of bridges for the festival is one of many signals of preferential treatment based on a perceived proximity to the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he has meditated. "If lakhs of people are coming, how can you consider this a private event? If this were the Kumbh Mela, wouldn't the army be used to help?" Sri Sri asked.
(Courtesy : NDTV)