mid-day editorial: Rs 5-crore fine is too little, too late

As the Art of Living’s (AoL) mega World Culture Festival begins today at the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, the dust is yet to settle from its run-in with environmentalists who opposed the festival, stating it would adversely affect the region’s ecology.

There was frantic back and forth between AoL and the opposition, a petition was filed and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) took centrestage in the row. The tribunal eventually fined AoL Rs 5 crore, but still gave the green signal for the World Culture Festival — or Peace Festival, as it has been called. Even at the time of going to press, there were several reports stating that the AoL would contest the fine. Meanwhile, a number of green organisations remain obdurate in the belief that the event — which will see more than 3 million people from 155 countries — will be an ecological disaster.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this festival. This fracas makes one question why these problems weren’t ironed out in the initial stages. First of all, it makes little sense to fine people and then allow them to hold the event anyway. The licences should have been given after careful thought and deliberation, ensuring all rules were being adhered to.

Here, one gets the impression that clearances were given in a slipshod manner, and the authorities thought the best way to mitigate some of that damage was to heap fines on different bodies.

The imbroglio is also detrimental to the country’s international image, given that so many countries will be following the news and hordes of visitors may have experienced a great deal of uncertainty and trepidation about making the trip here. The artistes who have been practicing for the festival may also have been thrown off their rhythm.

Even as the event begins, we see and hear factions trading charges. Ironically, the beginning to this festival of peace has been anything but peaceful.

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