NEW DELHI: A united opposition in the Rajya Sabha today slammed the Union government for allowing the Indian Army to be used for a private event being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation.
The lawmakers also said the event itself was environmentally questionable as it is to be held on the ecologically fragile flood plains of the Yamuna.
The government sprang to the defence of the Art of Living guru, saying his intentions cannot be doubted as he was committed to protecting the environment. The event has secured all the required permissions, it claimed, and added that the issue cannot be raised in the House as it is being heard by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
But the opposition members were not satisfied with the government's clarification and rushed into the well of the House, shouting slogans and forcing a brief adjournment.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress) gave notice under Rule 267 seeking an adjournment to discuss the issue but deputy chairman P J Kurien ruled that the former's notice was not in order but he would allow the issue to be raised as a Zero Hour submission.
Terming the construction of a temporary structure on the floodplains of Yamuna as "destruction unseen in history", Yadav said the NGT had earlier given orders disallowing construction activity on the ecologically fragile zone and DDA had cancelled permission twice.
He wanted to know "under what pressure was the Indian Army deployed to build a pontoon bridge for the event."
Sitaram Yechury (CPM) asked, "Can the Indian Army be roped in to assist a private function? It is highly irregular for the Army to be called in to create facilities for a private function."
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Ravi Shankar was committed to environment protection and the programme was "being conducted with all permissions and is not illegal."
Azad said he was not against the Art of Living foundation or any cultural festival but was concerned about the environment, bio-diversity and ecology.
The government, rightly so, became a great champion of environment at the recent climate summit at Paris but what was happening in the capital was of concern, he said and asked why no environment clearance was taken for the function and "who issued permission to build pontoon bridge."