Saturday, 17 February 2018

Do prayers have a religion?

M Rajaque Rahman
The fuss over the secularity of the morning prayers in the state-sponsored Kendriya Vidyalayas is not just hawkish, but also a marked display of ignorance of the very concept of prayer itself. And as it stands, the Supreme Court will have to rule on whether prayer has a religion. I pray (pun Intended) the Apex Court would go by the spirit and save the education sector from getting trapped in the polarised and prejudiced milieu in the country.

For the record, the prayer in contention is a combination of a song in Hindi preceded and followed by a Sanskrit sloka. The song is a simple call of the heart to fill it with knowledge and purify the soul. The opening sloka is the popular “Asato ma sad gamaya…” which is an expression of the longing to move from untruth to truth; from darkness to light and from death to immortality. The closing sloka is a prayer seeking to move together and not to hate each other.

The prayer doesn’t invoke any deity or God. There is no polytheism, no segregation, no discrimination. And that has been the core of all common prayers of this nation. Take for example the most popular Gayatri Mantra.  It doesn’t invoke God for any small individual comfort. Instead, it calls out for inspiration and guidance for our intellect. And, where else can one find a more inclusive wish for well-being of all than in the meaning of “Sarve bhavantu sukhinah…”? This elementary prayer wishes happiness, goodness, and freedom from misery for all.

If such genuine calls for righteousness, wisdom, eternal light, happiness and wellness of all beings are to be called non-secular and unconstitutional, then the cry for amending the Constitution will only start looking justified. The point is that these prayers are universal in the language and the content. They unite the entire creation into a bond of divine blessing, and they nowhere limit whom you should pray to. Allah, Jesus, Krishna, Ganesh or Shiva don’t seem to matter. Hence, there is no question of contravening with the Article 28(1) of not providing religious instruction. 

The ignorant attitude that everything that has its origin in India is Hindu and non-secular has done a lot of harm to the nation. In the guise of being secular, we have denied the nation from making such deep prayers for righteousness and wisdom a part of the national consciousness. Those who protest such prayers in the name of secularism not only expose their ignorance of their meaning but also do the biggest disservice to the ideals of secularism. If everybody is blessed with these attributes, the essence of secularism will be a fait accompli.

The prayers which are the being questioned are more of spiritual pursuits of attaining highest attributes in life rather than being ritualistic and superstitious. They are an important part of the indigenous repository which is full of values that are essential for promoting unity and universalism and weeding out fanaticism from young minds. It’s a national tragedy that an aspiration for such higher attributes isn’t inculcated through our education system.

The time has come to sensitize all Indians to praying for the highest attributes in life and imbibe the human values of compassion, caring and sharing. That alone can prevent fanaticism in young minds. The best place to do it is at schools. And, it’s not a tall order. We just need to find non-controversial ways of spiritualising Indian education. The need of the hour is to shift the national discourse from saffronisation to spiritualisation and come up with a policy that will integrate the ancient treasures for which generations of people from all over the world have been coming to India.

(The author keenly follows and write on issues that are relevant to the Idea of India. He tweets @rajaque)

When doctors need emergency treatment!

M Rajaque Rahman
The horrifying incident of a Delhi-based hospital declaring dead, and packing off in a polythene bag, a baby along with its stillborn twin when it was actually alive and another private hospital overcharging the family of a seven-year-old dengue patient at an average of over Rs 1 lakh per day, have once again raised the alarm bell that all may not be well with the tribe of healers. The prevailing sickness may be much more critical than what is assumed and must need an emergency treatment!


 
Such incidents justify the narrative that some doctors might be fishing in the pond of clueless customers. The scale of suspicion might be exaggerated, but there is no denying that the lure for money is making doctors happy when they see sickness! But it will be too cruel to cast all doctors in one mould. There are doctors who heal. There are doctors who consider a pep-talk session with the patient equally, if not more, important as the medicine they prescribe. For me, there are two types of doctors. One spiritual and other non-spiritual. Not in the sense of being religious, but being holistic in seeing life.
 
The first type honours the power of the spirit and aspires to become a part of its healing mechanism. They aren't rigid and procedure-driven. They take a holistic view of the patient's condition and are willing to adopt a multidimensional approach to heal it. Such doctors need to be supported by a providing an ecosystem that encourages a systematic integration of the traditional and more holistic approaches like Ayurveda into the healthcare system.
 
The other type sees illness as their opponents that needed to be outsmarted or out-procedured. If their's will be done, nobody will ever die. They call it alive as long as they are breathing, even if it's ventilator-induced. Sometimes, they conduct emergency surgeries on "dead bodies". They care very little about wellness. They just love to handle interesting cases and often forget no patient ever wants to be an interesting case.
 
Despite the ugly head of the black sheep rearing more often, the former tribe is not extinct yet. But there are enough pointers to suggest that the rapid rise in C-Section deliveries, spinal fusion surgeries and the like might be driven to some extent by doctors' financial incentives. Experts say that more than half of the spinal fusions performed globally could be without good reasons. Remember the ‘Operation Jonk' expose in 2014 that suggested some doctors earn as high as 40-50 percent commission on the tests being prescribed by them!
 
But it's not just money though. There is a huge problem of approach and orientation. As doctors become more and more specialised, the sphere of possibilities has been curtailed. To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Like that, surgeons like to solve medical problems by cutting, just as physicians first seek solutions with drugs. And they don't see anything beyond. Their vision becomes so narrowed that they can't see illness beyond the problem of pain. They end up becoming problem fixers rather than healers.
 
And as they become more and more worldly, the stress level also seems to be catching up and eating into their commitment to value life. It may be time for doctors to take some treatments to free themselves of stress and maintain a centred and equanimous mind. Doctors with a meditative mind is a good news for patients as they more likely to have a stronger intuitive power. They are more likely to arrive at a more precise diagnosis, and with fewer tests and imaging. Probably, the tribe of healers need a deep-breathing therapy and a dose of Sudarshan Kriya and the like.
 
A concoction of medication and meditation may just be the right prescription the doctors should be writing for themselves. And for the patients, they have to just do a scan of the doctor before he could wheel them in for an expensive scan!

Friday, 23 December 2016

India beeps as a beacon as Sri Sri wows LatAm

M Rajaque Rahman

The sight of a 15,000-plus crowd joyously swaying to a Sanskrit song in far-off Rio de Jenerio during one of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s recent event was certainly exhilarating. But dismissing it as spiritual seekers getting mesmerized about their guru would be like missing the plot while writing a review of a Hollywood blockbuster!


Reports suggest the wave Sri Sri created during his recent 21-day, eight-nation tour of Latin America wasn’t just about meditation and breathing! It was more about a world in anxious need of amity seeing hopes and solace in India’s age-old repository of spiritual values and ahimsa.

Coming in the wake of his role in brokering the now-famed truce in Colombia, it’s not surprising to see key LatAm leaders seeking his advice on developing holistic approaches to alleviate the problems like drug abuse, violence, poverty and crime. They clearly see his teachings as a hope for resolving long-standing geo-political conflicts, reducing crimes, and spreading peace and happiness.


Heads of states to decision makers to businessmen and academicians and the public opened up to his vision for a violence-free world through spiritual awakening to such an extent that was described as "breathtakingly fresh in a region where no one wanted to look forward" by popular Paris-based publication Le Monde.

In signs that the countries in the region are taking his holistic model seriously, they feted him with honours that are reserved for the most distinguished personalities. From being invited to ‘Change the Rose of Peace’ at the Cultural Palace of Guatemala City to being given the rarest honour of opening the Miraflores Locks (Canal Gates) in Panama, he was raised to the level of a universal leader who can influence the mindset for positive social transformation. Incidentally, Sri Sri is the only spiritual leader other than the Pope to have been allowed to open the Bridge of the Americas, which connects North and South America.

For the record, Sri Sri was also honoured as "Distinguished Guest" by Governor of Panama and awarded highest civilian award in Recife, Brazil.


On his part, Sri Sri didn’t let down their aspirations. From pushing for reconciliation in Colombia along with President Juan Manuel Santos to signing an agreement with the Mexican government for rehabilitating slum children to pitching in for police reform in Brazil to joining hands with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis for peace building, Sri Sri’s tour was packed with a holistic agenda that could strike at the very roots of what ails the regions.

Ongoing interventions by the Art of Living are reported to have led to drastic reduction in incidences of violence in two of Mexico's most dreaded prisons. His global NGO is also taking up de-addiction programs across the region.    

Sri Sri also led many mass meditation programs including one outside the Colombian Parliament where famous Latin American band Aterciapelodas also joined in chanting and meditation. That people from all walks of life turned up in large numbers in every program of his in a region plagued by drugs mafias and violence only goes to prove that formula is freeing the mindset of destructive cycles. “My life after meditation has been a whole new world for me. I have experienced true joy and my mind is so free even though I am behind the bars.” This testimony of an inmate of one of the prisons of Mexico reaffirms that there is a magic in the ancient Indian wisdom that Sri Sri purveys.

It’s also said that FARC rebels came around to declaring a ceasefire in Colombia only after attending a series of meditation and breathing sessions of Sri Sri. One Mexican Senator was also quoted to have said “there is nothing more democratic than breathing in this world” after attending Sri Sri’s session at the Mexican Senate.

The region is badly in need of such inclusive philosophies to bridge the prevailing political divide that accentuates the cycle of crime and violence. In an indication that Sri Sri is on it, he also called on former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe whose strong opposition to the terms of the Colombian peace deal was responsible for the narrow rejection of the treaty in the October referendum. He emphasized the value of reconciliation not only in Colombia, but also during his address to the Mexican Senate.


What is more significant and relevant than LatAm getting enamored by Sri Sri’s charisma is the unfolding plot of India living up to its potentials of what President Pranab Mukherjee referred to as “a beacon to the world at a time of great danger”. During his address on the eve of last Republic Day, the President was straightforward in telling the nation that it’s her spiritual repository that would reclaim India’s glorious past.

Sri Sri is doing a commendable job of globalizing India’s model of peace and co-existence based on her rich spiritual ethos. With teachings which are universal and focused on something as ubiquitous as breath, Sri Sri is primed to be India's undisputed spiritual ambassador. Interestingly, Indian Ambassadors to LatAm countries were seen welcoming him. This is a welcome departure from the past when India’s ruling dispensation shied away from anything remotely spiritual.

This augurs well for the country. India has the “special genius” that can bring solace and the world is increasingly turning to her for moral guidance. Surely, LatAm lapping it up with gusto is the just the beginning!


(A former business journalist, the author is now on a journey to find the depth of the matter. His writings focus on adding spiritual aspects to things worldly.)

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Seriously, India is getting happiness-savvy!

India can draw a lot from Sri Sri’s reputation and philosophy of practically bringing happiness to millions across the globe. He has proven that happiness can actually be learnt.  


M Rajaque Rahman

India is suddenly getting happy savvy. A BJP-ruled state to a premier IIT…, there is a newfound rush to institutionalize the pursuit of happiness. The day seems not very far when our politicians will be dolling out coupons for free happiness retreats instead of free TVs, mobiles, etc! But Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s idea of having a ministry for happiness is no political gimmick. It represents a shift in paradigm from ‘money cannot buy happiness’ to ‘happiness can be delivered and administered’.

Having stolen a smart march over his counterparts in these days of competitive political positioning, Mr Chouhan now faces the real challenge of coming up with a mechanism that would deliver happiness to his subject which not so long ago led the demeaning BIMARU pack.

Devising a few good-feel schemes for the new ministry is one thing, but making his subject actually feel happy will be quite another. Unless he finds an effective mechanism of delivering happiness as a practical experience, the joy of pioneering the happiness ministry in the country will leave Mr Chouhan sooner than other mayas of the world!

Like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, happiness is in the mind. And like all things mental, happiness is very subtle and delicate. It's impossible to measure or quantify it. There is no Sensex to plot its rise or fall. The old-school model of linking happiness to material gratification and possessions has fallen flat with many of the world's most developed countries topping in suicide rate and depression.

Despite it being the ultimate motivation behind all actions we do in this world, very few people genuinely experience happiness in today’s hectic and fast-paced world. We slog to earn thinking money will make us comfortable and happy! We run behind good food thinking the taste will makes us happy... And the baits are endless.

Mr Chouhan’s challenge will be to engineer a paradigm of happiness away from these baits! Instead of good-feel populism, he should focus on making a plan for teaching happiness to the masses. The nature is on his side for learning to be happy is no rocket science and everyone would be an eligible candidate. For sure, no entrance test would be needed! Just a few lessons on the mechanics of life and happiness will do.

True happiness can come only from learning and understanding simple things about life. The logic is very straightforward. Anything we have knowledge about becomes easy to handle. For those who have the knowledge of cooking, even making an elaborate and lavish meal is a child’s play. But to the one who has no knowledge, even making a cup of tea is stressful. Those who know driving, drive any vehicle with ease. And, one who doesn't, gets goosebumps sitting in the backseat.

The new ministry must focus on sensitizing people to the subtlety of happiness. That will come from making people acquire a little understanding about life -- how its different layers interplay, what controls our mind, what nourishes our soul, etc. That science of holistically looking at life is what is generally and collectively referred to as spirituality. Nothing more, nothing less!

So far Mr Chouhan seems to be on the right track. By seeking advice of the likes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he has shown the ministry will have a right set of advisors. Apart from being the most sought-after spiritual guru in the world today, Sri Sri also has the reputation of practically bringing happiness to millions across the globe. Incidentally, the flagship programme of his globally popular Art of Living is christened Happiness Program! His just-concluded tour under the banner of GetHappyUS drew huge crowds of happiness seekers across the US. It augurs well that the new ministry will have the counsel of someone who knows the subject well.

So what should the syllabus for training in happiness be like? Here also, Sri Sri’s Happiness Program could be a good guide. This life-skill workshop comes packed with wisdom, techniques and processes that make the abstract concept of happiness look more real and attainable. The soul of any class in happiness must focus on mind management. The students must be sensitized to the tendencies of the mind that robe it of its happy nature, and factors that make us postpone our happiness to the future need to be understood and addressed.

Sri Sri’s philosophy of happiness includes subtle lessons like appreciating the contrasting realities of life, handling mistakes and criticism, etc and facing challenges of life with equanimity. It looks at the mechanics of happiness in its totality. Take for example his revolutionary equations that establish the link between happiness and one’s personal attitude to life. In a nutshell, it teaches wisdom about life.

By combining with powerful breathing techniques, the Art of Living makes happiness a tangible proposition. The Sudarshan Kriya, which is the centerpiece of the breathing techniques taught in the Happiness Program, is known to free the mind of stress, fatigue and negativity. They make the mind focused in the moment and stops its vacillation between the anger about past and anxiety of the future, making one primed to operate from a heightened state of awareness.

That’s what the happiness ministry should aim for. Schemes like Kanyadan Yojana, Teerth Darshan and Ladli Lakshmi can boost the happiness quotient only in the short term. It will take much more than just ensuring access to food, clothing, education and medical facilities to realize the vision “inculcating a happier lifestyle” and “infusing positivity” into the lives of its citizens.

A ministry for happiness, a centre at IIT-Kharagpur to teach and research on the science of happiness…, India’s emphatic bid for happiness is far deeper than just seeking to improve her dismal rank in the global happiness index. The natural byproducts of a happy personality like good health, uplifted spirit, compassion, intuition, creativity and intelligence could work as the rocket to propel India to new heights. Tathastu!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Yechury, will you be hosting an iftar party?

The chances of the CPM Boss daring to talk against the Xinjiang ban look as remote as him turning up for Yoda Day

M Rajaque Rahman

It isn’t a mere social media mock when one hears about Indian Communists opening their umbrellas when there is rain in Moscow or China. Indian Comrades still look up to their foreign mentors as much as they accuse BJP of looking up to Nagpur for ideological inspiration.

It’s only natural to emulate one’s mentors. With the Chinese government imposing a ban on fasting during Ramzan in mainly-Muslim Xinjiang region, I was curiously watching which way Indian Communists will go. Going by their penchant for things Chinese, one would have expected them to make some noise about Indian Muslims keeping fast! After all, ‘religion is the opium of people’ and Ramzan represents one of the most overt displays of masses getting high on that ‘opium’!

Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect them to barter their ideological cap for a skull cap so easily! But then in the days of vote-bank politics, who cares for ideological sincerity. Though Indian Comrades work overtime to show how they are against religion, they often give in to the lure of its political dividends.

They always find cheap ways to be seen as pro-Muslim while pretending to be anti-religion. Take the curious case of what happened when West Bengal CPM stalwart Abdur Rezzak Mollah wanted to go to Haj pilgrimage a few years ago. All ideological resistance evaporated when Mollah threatened to tell his constituency (read Muslim voters) of the ideological opposition of the party to Haj. He was allowed to go after a not-so pious manipulation of making it look like a fun-trip to Mecca rather than a pilgrimage.

The harsh fact is that Mollah not only performed Haj, but also openly proclaimed that his devotion to the faith he was born into and the almighty is always hundred per cent.

Does it signal a readiness to smoke the opium pipe? Or is it just another case of speaking in many voices for political expediency? Unfortunately, the later was the case. The keenness to relax the ‘no religion in the cadres’ norm seems to be driven by pure vote-bank politics. The intellectual hypocrisy was further exposed when a party senior from the same state was reprimanded for being seen around the Tirupati shrine!

Last year when the Left parties debated whether they should attend Sonia Gandhi’s iftar party, the contention was less over whether Comrades are ideologically allowed to be pro-religion and attend iftar parties, but more over whether they should seen as pro-Congress! Pro-Congress, they already are. Pro-religion, they don’t have the courage. Nor are they ready to pay the price of denouncing it totally. That explains why they are seen swinging between crying foul about Yoga Day or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s spiritual Olympics and putting on a skull cap for the next iftar party.

It will be foolish to expect CPM boss Sitaram Yechury’s much talked-about pragmatism to go much beyond ignoring the Beijing diktat for the sake of appeasing Indian Muslims. The chances of him daring to talk against the Xinjiang ban look as remote as him embracing Bharatyata by turning up for Yoda Day or chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Looks like India Comrades take Leon Trotsky seriously, albeit with a twist. The end may justify the means as long as there is something to gain politically.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Satellite images confirm AoL did no damage

Sri Sri's NGO says it’s being penalized for tempering something that didn’t even exist on Yamuna floodplains

M Rajaque Rahman

The ongoing high-profile tussle between the Art of Living and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is set for an interesting turn with former alleging that it has been penalized for damaging something that didn’t even exist.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s NGO made a high-pitched presentation to media in New Delhi claiming it has scientific evidence that will vindicate its contention of causing no damage to air, water and soil to the site where it hosted the World Culture Festival in March 2016.

“All the allegations of damage to floodplains are scientifically mala fide. An analysis of available independent satellite images of the site taken in 2000 and 2016 clearly proves that the site had no water body or wetland,” said a statement from the organization issued after the presentation. It also added that a Survey of India’s map of Delhi dating 1986 confirms the site was no wetland. Claiming that Spot Google Images show the site as leveled and ploughed agricultural land with crops like sugarcane, it says vegetables are found to be grown there since 2005.

If these claims are true, the allegations of drastically tampering with water bodies and wetlands for which the Art of Living is being made to compensate will fall flat and will raise serious questions about the motives behind raking up the case. Does NGT really think the Art of Living process an unseen power to tamper with something that doesn’t even exist?

The Art of Living reiterated its contention that all conclusions on the issue so far have been reached without any scientific studies or investigations. “Ecology, environmental science and biodiversity being established disciplines of modern science with clearly defined scientific procedures, we demand that any conclusion on the same must be based on established scientific method(s),” the statement added.

It alleged that decisions with huge implications are being taken on the basis of ballpark calculations and by casually surveying acres of land in less than an hour. It also termed the allegations of destroying the natural flow of the Yamuna as outrageous, saying the only activity over the river was construction of three temporary pontoon bridges which were dismantled immediately after the event.

“The arguments against us that we destroyed natural vegetation also falls flat as there were no signs such biodiversity on the site in the images available with us. Instead native plants and crops like gobi and palak were spotted,” it added.

Responding to the allegations of harming aquatic life around Yamuna, the statement said the Yamuna had already sunk to a pit with toxic levels which has severely affects not only the aquatic life, but also the birds that feed on them. It alleged an attempt to put the blame for years of neglect of the Yamuna on three days of Art of Living event and make it pay for it.

It also denied constructing any ramp or paved road on any portion of the Yamuna floodplains. It cited satellite images that show the existence such road even in 2000.

Saying it is committed to restoration of the floodplains if damages are scientifically established, it expressed apprehension that the compensation amount collected from it could be used up in the guise of restoring damages which are yet to be established.

Alleging that process of natural justice has been severely violated, it demanded an independent panel of experts to assess the alleged damage as per fair and scientific parameters for damage assessment.

With the Art of Living pegging its stance on standing up for the sake of saving the principle of justice, no quick end seems to be in sight. Or is it time to give medi(t)ation a chance?  

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

It's unfair to deny Art of Living a fair treatment!

M Rajaque Rahman


With the National Green Tribunal (NGT) disallowing the Art of Living’s appeal to reconstitute a fresh panel to scientifically assess the alleged damage to the Yamuna floodplains due to its World Culture Festival (WCF) and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar vowing “to fight till the end for justice”, the high-profile case seems set for a long-drawn legal battle.

Soon after the verdict, Sri Sri tweeted, “Since the Art of Living has not created any air, water or soil pollution, we will fight till the end for justice.” The latest development begs the vital question why a revered saint like Sri Sri is being compelled to talk of a fight-to-finish for justice. Ever since the NGT randomly imposed a Rs 5-crore environmental compensation on the eve of WCF in March, Sri Sri has always maintained that his battle wasn’t about the money, but about standing up for justice. “I have been exhorting people to stand up against injustice and I couldn’t just bow and take the unjust verdict. We will contest this till the end,” he recently wrote in a blog post.

What is making Sri Sri’s stance look justifiable is the series of glaring inconsistencies in the handling of the case, which has been shrouded in contradictions from the beginning. Initial media reports then suggested the first assessment by a member of the NGT Principal Committee perceived no visible damage to the floodplains from the proposed event.

Even before the dust could settle on the debate over the likely damage to the Yamuna ecosystems, the NGT committee suddenly came up with a figure of Rs 120 crore as compensation cost for restoring the damage. That a responsible committee comprising eminent members can arrive at a fine of this magnitude on the basis of a visual assessment belies all logics. But what was more baffling was that the figure suddenly came down to Rs 5 crore when NGT delivered its interim order. NGT itself has proved that its assessment for damage was just a wild guess and has no sanctity.

This inconsistency gives credence to the conspiracy theory that the NGT committee overstated the damage to sabotage the event which was set to be attended by a galaxy of national and international guests. From that perspective, the same committee assessing the damage after the event defeats the principle of fair-play. For the sake of its credibility, NGT should have acceded to the Art of Living’s plea for a fresh committee as it has repeatedly questioned the logic of some of the decisions of the existing committee. 

It’s reported that the NGT committee sent a team to the spot for assessment armed with a JCB even when the Art of Living was still cleaning up the ground to live up to its promise of returning it in a better condition. More than the haste, what’s making it look illogical isthat the committee needed a JCB to dig out damages. When the pre-event assessment was purely visual, what would be the reference point for the findings of the soil tests planed? If there were a scientific assessment before the event, it would have given a clear picture of the pathetic conditions of the floodplains. Such an assessment would have accounted the fact that the very venue where the WCF took place was rotting under construction debris(malba) and there are several unauthorized permanent constructions and settlements in its vicinity.

In the absence of a reference point, there is a risk of putting the blame for years of neglect on three days of Art of Living event. It’s no secret that the Yamuna and its floodplains have already been mercilessly ravaged well before the Art of Living appeared on the scene. The contamination in the Yamuna has long crossed the threshold not just for the humans, but also the aquatic life along the river bank. Findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Sciences as early as 2014 revealed that pollution has lowered the dissolved oxygen (DO) level of Yamuna waters to zero mg/l. The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) level was found to be in the range of 4 to 29 mg/l as against the desirable value of 3 mg/l.

The Art of Living has consistently insisted that it handed back the ground “in a better condition than they received it -- greener, cleaner and with no damage to the air, water or soil.” Given the track record of the organization which is credited for rejuvenating many water bodies across the country, and in the absence of any pre-event scientific assessment, it would be unfair to dismiss the Art of Living’s claim as mere propaganda.

The Art of Living also claims that it received all necessary permissions before hosting the event. If the authorities have granted the permission to host a huge event like the WCF and expected not even a blade of grass will be touched, then they are either totally out of sync or believed too much in the divine power of Sri Sri!!! That DDA granted permission implies that the Art of Living was permitted to clean up and make the filthy and stinky place fit to host a global event.

For a fair conclusion to the case, NGT should have not only gone for an independent panel to assess the actual damage and also set fair parameters for damage assessment. Blindly reaffirming a huge compensation without proper due diligence on a reputed organization will only hurt the image of a public institution like NGT. Already questions have been raised over its attitude of seeing any complainant as a messiah and the defendant as a criminal. 

Credibility, consistency and commonsense are the cornerstones of any justice system and when there is a digression, people’s faith in the system takes a beating. The emerging inside stories behind the Ishrat Jahan encounter and Samjhauta Express blast have already exposed that the process of law in the country is not totally aboveboard.  In this context, the green watchdog need to act fast and shows that it is above suspicion.

(A former business journalist, the author is now driven by a passion to find the depth of the matter. His writings focus on adding spiritual aspects to things worldly.)