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Environment

HC Wants Govt to Probe if Isha Foundation Collected Money for 'Cauvery Calling' as State Project

The bench was hearing a petition that alleged Isha Foundation collected Rs 10,626 crore from the public by projecting the 'Cauvery Calling' initiative as a state government project.

New Delhi: The Karnataka high court on Monday orally directed the state government to enquire whether any money was collected by Isha Foundation or Isha Outreach, headed by ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vasudev, for the ‘Cauvery Calling’ project by projecting it as an initiative of the state government, LiveLaw reported.

The division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty was hearing a petition filed by advocate A.V. Amarnathan in 2019, who alleged that the Isha Foundation collected Rs 10,626 crore from the public by projecting the ‘Cauvery Calling’ initiative as a Karnataka government project.

As per the petition, the Foundation is planning to plant 253 crore tree saplings across the 639 kilometer stretch of Cauvery river bank. For that, it is said to be collecting Rs 42 per tree planting from the public, which equals to a whooping sum of Rs 253 X 42 in total of Rs 10,626 crores, which according to the petitioner is a major scam, LiveLaw reported.

The state government on Monday clarified that ‘Cauvery Calling’ is a project of Isha Foundation/Isha Outreach and that the Karnataka government was not funding the project or providing any land for it.

Also read: The Empty Environmentalism of ‘Rally for Rivers’

Following this clarification, the bench asked the state government if it is “willing to inquire to ascertain whether any money was collected by projecting that this is a project of the Karnataka government.”

The petition further alleged that the Karnataka government was allowing Isha Foundation to plant saplings on government lands without studying the pros and cons of a private project.

Earlier, the court had repeatedly asked the state government for its stand on whether it has any connection with the ‘Cauvery Calling’ project and whether the Isha Foundation and Isha Outreach are involved in the project of the state government.

The government advocate replied that the state clarified that it is not a project of the state government.

The counsel representing Isha Outreach told the court last month that it had put out a clarification on its website that “‘Cauvery Calling’ is not a government initiative. It is an initiative by Isha Outreach a wing of the Foundation overseeing the initiative. And that the saplings are planted in the lands belonging to farmers and not in government lands.”

Also read: Meet the Tribal Woman in Coimbatore Who Is Standing up To Isha Foundation

However, the court was not satisfied with this clarification and expected it to be more prominent.

According to an article in The Wire Science, Vasudev and Isha’s endeavours have been accused of environmental violations including illegal construction of the yoga centre in the ecologically fragile foothills of the Western Ghats. “The local people allege that these illegalities have exacted a toll on the environment and local wildlife, and eroded the region’s water resources and farming economy,” the report said.