New Delhi: In an attempt to corner the Centre, the Opposition on Wednesday raised the issue of the Indian Army’s involvement in the construction of pontoon bridges for the World Culture Festival being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation on the Yamuna floodplains.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury hit out at the Centre asking why was the Army being roped in for a private event following which the Opposition MPs raised slogans of ‘Army ka galat istemaal mat karo, raksha karo’.
In response, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is committed towards protecting environment and added that it would be wrong to doubt his commitment towards nature.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that he was concerned about the event as the Delhi Police had also raised security concerns.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, lashed back at the Opposition saying that if a matter is pending with Tribunal, ordinarily the chair doesn’t allow the issue to be raised in the House.
Speaking to the media after the House was adjourned, Yechury reiterated that the Army was being misused and added the entire matter is a violation on the Green Tribunal.
“How can the Indian Army be summoned to make arrangements for a private function? How are they violating the existing laws in this issue? How are they misusing the Army? The government owes an explanation for this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal will continue to hear today the plea seeking to stop construction of temporary structure on the flood plains of Yamuna for the World Culture Festival.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swantanter Kumar yesterday asked Ministry of Environment and Forests to file an affidavit today and tell why no environmental clearance is needed for raising temporary structures.
The direction came after counsel appearing for the Ministry said that they have found no debris at the site, when an expert team had visited. The counsel added that as per Environment Impact Assessment notification 2006, no environment clearance is needed for temporary structures.
In yesterday’s hearing, the Green Panel also questioned the building up of pontoon bridge by the Army on river Yamuna for the festival.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had earlier defended the event, saying not a single tree has been cut and the ecological stability has been maintained during the preparations.
“We are asserting that we will turn the place into a beautiful bio diversity park once we are finished with it. Since 2010, our volunteers have been working hard to clean the river and around 512 tonnes of dirt and garbage has been fished out. We want to save the Yamuna. We have not cut a single tree and have maintained ecological stability. We want to see Yamuna transformed into a beauty again,” he told the media here. (ANI)