NEW DELHI: Major cultural extravaganza, Art of Living’s controversy-ridden World Cultural Festival started on Friday evening with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the event to celebrate the foundation’s 35 years in service.
Terming the event the Kumbh Mela of culture, Modi said that India was so diverse and had so much to contribute to the world. “If we keep criticising ourselves, why would the world look at us? We must be proud of cultural heritage of our country,” Modi said at the event, which only got the go-ahead from the National Green Tribunal on Thursday.
However, the relief to the Foundation came with a stinker from the green panel which took strong exception to Ravi Shankar’s remarks on refusing refusal to pay the Rs 5 crore environmental compensation, stating he would rather go to jail.
“When a man of his stature makes such statements, it hits the very rule of law. If anybody hurts the image of the tribunal, he will be taken to rule of law. Don’t treat the tribunal as subject to your controversy with regard to the event,” a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
The panel directed the foundation to pay Rs 25 lakh immediately, failing which the grant of Rs 2.5 crore sanctioned to it by Centre would be attached.
The direction came after the foundation said it was a charitable organisation and that it was difficult for it to generate Rs 5 crore in such a short period of time. The NGT had earlier asked AOL to pay this amount prior to the event. The panel, however, granted it three weeks to pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crore after Art Of Living paid Rs 25 lakh immediately. Taking a dig at his critics for describing the event as his ‘private party’, Ravi Shankar, said that obstacles did come when something great was done. “Somebody said it is the guruji’s private party. I said yes. It is true because entire world is my family. When one needs nothing for himself, then he belongs to the entire society,” he said.