Minister of State and Tourism Mahesh Sharma on 11 March defended the Art of Living Foundation's World Culture Festival, saying that any environmental problems could be solved.
He told ANI:
"India's strength lies in its diverse culture and we want to take that to the corners of the world which is why this event is so helpful. So, there should be no debates on it. Yes, there can be issues on the location and the impact it can have on the environment but there are always solutions to such things?"
Sharma asserted that the event must go on. He said that the issues surrounding the event venue were a matter for law and order officials, and stressed that the proceedings in the case must go on uninterrupted.
"In no case must anyone raise objections towards the intent of the function but some people are still politicising the event. I completely support the concern towards the environment but I also back such events, which promote the cultural diversity of the country."
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's foundation has deposited Rs 25 lakh of the Rs 5 crore fine slapped by the National Green Tribunal. The remaining amount will be deposited within three weeks. The NGT also told the foundation that if anybody hurts the image of the tribunal, they would be taken to task.
Sri Sri had said earlier that he would appeal the tribunal's order. He also said that the foundation would clean the riverbanks and would leave no debris behind after the festival.
"We have done nothing wrong. I will go to jail but not pay the fine."
Several environmentalists had petitioned the National Green Tribunal over the potential environmental damage by the event. Environmentalists also alleged that the foundation did not have the required permits and safety certificates for the event.
In a separate order last year, the National Green Tribunal had said that no construction should be allowed on the floodplains of the Yamuna River.
Farmer groups complained that they had been forced off their land to make room for the event, which is expected to be attended by over three lakh people.