Spiritual guru accepts Maharashtra govt’s invitation to promote drive to planttwo crore trees, pledges followers’ participation
Brushing aside the controversy over alleged environmental damage due to his World Cultural Festival near New Delhi in March, the state government has appointed Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to promote its tree plantation drive. The government aims to plant two crore trees as part of this initiative.
The spiritual guru, who had organised the three-day event on the west bank of the Yamuna to celebrate 35 years of The Art of Living, had received support from the central and Delhi governments. The event came under the National Green Tribunal’s scanner after a set of petitions were filed demanding its cancellation over concerns of potential permanent damage to the riverbed. Allegations were also made about trees being felled while readying the venue.
On Monday, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar sought to downplay the World Cultural Festival controversy, saying “everything has already been answered satisfactorily”. Mr. Mungantiwar said he had made a presentation about the state’s initiative during a meeting with Gurudev in Bengaluru on Sunday, following which the latter had promised to extend all possible support by asking his followers to participate.
“We do not want to make it just a state government programme. It is a noble cause and we want all citizens, NGOs, political parties and leaders to participate in it. I decided to meet him (Gurudev) after we learned that he was holding a gathering of his followers from Maharashtra at his ashram,” Mr. Munguntiwar told The Hindu .
According to the state government, Art of Living is part of a number of environmental initiatives, including the rejuvenation of nine rivers. “I am also planning to invite Modiji as the chief guest. I hope he accepts. We have written all Union ministers from the state to be a part of it,” he said.
The tree plantation initiative had been announced by Mr Munguntiwar, who is also the minister for forests, in his budget speech two months ago. According to the forests department, all its district-level officials have been asked to chalk out detailed plan for the initiative. “We want to make it an inclusive program and want common citizens to come forward,” an official said, claiming it will be the first-of-its-kind event and may find place in record books. The ministry has also written letters to several celebrities asking them to join the initiative.
All district-level forest officials have been asked for a detailed plan for the initiative