This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Apoorv Pathak. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are Spiritual Gurus Above The Law? Well, It Certainly Looks Like It In Sri Sri’s Case

More from Apoorv Pathak

By Apoorv Pathak:

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the gathering as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (L), a well known guru, watches during World Culture Festival on the banks of the river in New Delhi, India, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTSAE01
Image credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi.

The flagrant violation of public safety safeguards and disregard for environmental concerns in hosting the World Culture Festival has turned the event into a disaster waiting to happen.

The Delhi High Court has termed it as an ecological disaster. An expert committee has estimated that the cost of undoing the damage to the environment would amount to Rs. 120 crores. The Central Public Works Department has judged its stage to be structurally unsafe. The Delhi Police has flagged it for serious security concerns and over 80 farmers are on a protest for illegal takeover their cropland without any due compensation.

So, one would have thought the event would be cancelled. But, even with the organisers facing harsh legal action, alas, one would be mistaken. Such is the influence of the spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that not just will he have the prime minister attend the event, he has also refused to pay the symbolic fine of Rs. five crores, confident that the rule of law in India does not apply to spiritual gurus.

The brazen contempt for rules, though problematic in itself, has severely undermined public interest and left the public at the mercy of the gods to face disasters to which it seems they have deliberately been made vulnerable by a benign neglect of norms.

Worsen Delhi’s Water Scarcity

Every summer Delhi suffers from a chronic shortage of groundwater which is an important source of water for Delhi. The floodplains of the Yamuna are the most important groundwater recharging sites. By damaging their natural conditions and hardening the surface as is required for the event, their ability to absorb water would be significantly reduced. This is among the important reasons why construction activity is prohibited above the floodplains.

By holding such a large-scale event in this ecologically vital and vulnerable area, the groundwater recharge will be affected, worsening Delhi’s water crisis.

Increased Flood Vulnerability Of Delhi

The consequence of reduced water absorption ability won’t just be limited to water scarcity but also extend to worsening the flooding Delhi witness every monsoon. Any such large-scale exemption of prohibition on activities on the floodplain sets a bad precedent for conservation in future. When the violations of Commonwealth were legitimised, the current organiser used that as an excuse to get away with it as well. If this is allowed, a plethora of violations will follow as there is no reason why others should not be extended the same favour.

Every year or two our disregard for water bodies, their floodplains and marshland comes back to haunt us. If it was Uttarkashi floods in 2013, then it was the Kashmir flood in 2014 and Chennai in 2015. Why would we deliberately turn the gaze of nature towards Delhi for it to unleash its wrath in 2016?

Stampede Risk

Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Year in and year out the nation loses many precious lives due to ill managed mass gatherings where adequate arrangements to handle the crowd are missing. This event has all the factors that increase the chances of a stampede. With the river on one side and weak soil on the other, the site has a narrow access. The weak ground, it is possible, might give in due to the pressure of millions gathering on it and the stage lacks proper structural support. Also, mitigating measures are conspicuous due to their absence. Heaven forbid if there is some mishap, who will be responsible? The politicians who caved in to appease the powerful spiritual leader or the courts who were presented with a fait accompli and could do precious little than fine it?

The sad reality is that the event exposed the rotten collusion between our politicians and spiritual gurus. They care a penny for the impact of their action on the common citizens. The gurus claim to help us discover the gods. In this instance, indeed, they did help us discover the gods but in a very perverse way – we are left at the mercy of the gods and have no alternative but hope. All we can do is pray that the gods are watching out for us, else, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

You must be to comment.
  1. Pankaj Koul

    Environmental disaster, huge waste of resources and money. People would be happier using that fund for something more worthwhile for nation-building.

More from Apoorv Pathak

Similar Posts

By Divya Yadav

By VIVEK RAJ

By Ronak Aazad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below