Of late, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has developed a special proclivity for engendering controversies at will. Several pairs of eyebrows were raised when he was awarded the second highest civilian honour of the country, and now with an initiative to conduct World Culture Festival in Delhi, he has managed to grab more attention albeit with a negative connotation. This time though, in the self-induced entanglement he is in, he has the elite company of the Indian Army and the National Green Tribunal.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar says the Centre's decision to call up the Army for constructing two pontoon bridges over River Yamuna for Ravi Shankar's private event, was to ensure the security of several lakhs of people who would attend the event.
Dear Mr Parrikar, security for such an event should be ensured with the deployment of police, like in all similar events. Construction of bridges for a private function is not the duty of the government or the Army. In this case, the bridges ensure more convenience than security. Your play of words wouldn't absolve you of your indecorous use of the Army.
Has the government ensured the safety of the many millions who don't have a roof to look up to when the monsoon hits, to suddenly worry about the security of the people attending a private event? Typically, governments dally with the necessities of ordinary people, but worry about the demands of the special ones. Parrikar most conveniently compared the Ravi Shankar event with Kumbh Mela, where more than 120 million people gather every year, and which is not organised to further the interests of an individual.
It is quite natural that a Padma winner would appear special in the eyes of the government that bestowed him with the honour. But as far as I understand, a Padma award does not entitle one to hold additional rights or privileges over a regular citizen. Can I, tomorrow, conduct a large congregation in Kerala, and ask the defence minister to send across a company of the Kumaon Regiment to build a large parking area by felling trees and construct a couple of pontoon bridges over River Achankovil?
If that cannot be done, what the Centre has done now is an act of partisanship and extreme indignity. On the one hand, the government talks emotionally about the Army when nationwide opprobrium was heaped on it, and on the other hand it demands absolute servility from the Army to do the most unprincipled things. If this is not robbery of the taxpayer's money in broad daylight, nothing is.