This week, Newslaundry carried a on Jaggi Vasudev’s rise as one of India’s most influential godmen, his business and “spiritual” dealings, and the many illegalities involved in the establishment of his Isha Yoga Centre near Coimbatore. Responding to our reports, Isha , “We reiterate unequivocally that all the buildings in the Yoga Center are legal and are not in violation of any laws.”
Not true. Newslaundry has documentary proof of Isha accepting that its yoga centre was built in violation of environmental rules.
“We have constructed our development without obtaining prior environmental clearance, thereby violating the EIA notification 2006,” the Isha Foundation admitted in its application, dated April 12, 2018, to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority seeking post-construction approval for its illegally built centre.
The Isha Yoga Centre is set on a 4,87,418 sq meter plot, and it comprises the Chitra Block, Dhyanalinga Meditation Complex, Spanda Hall, Adiyogi Meditation Hall, Mandapam, Isha School, and Kaveri, Narmada, Noyyal, and Nethravati cottages. In all, there are 68 structures. As per procedure, an applicant seeking post-construction environmental clearance is liable to pay a penalty to their state’s pollution control board and face a legal case. Isha didn’t want to be slapped with a legal case.
“Whoever commits such violations has to face a legal case and pay compensation. That’s the rule,” said a senior official who was at the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority when Isha filed its application. “But Isha wasn’t ready to follow the procedure. They said they would pay the compensation but not face a court case. We told them there was no way they could avoid a case. They had done environmental violations and on top of that they didn’t want to follow the proper procedure for ex post facto clearance.”
After reviewing Isha’s application in a meeting on March 20 last year, the environment authority told the foundation to provide reports of its compliance with all the conditions imposed by the Public Works Department, Hill Area Conservation Authority, and the principal chief conservator of forests. It also asked to see proof that the yoga centre’s water supply was approved by the “competent authority”, meaning the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board.
Instead of providing the required information, the foundation requested to withdraw its application.
Newslaundry asked the Isha Foundation whether it followed the prescribed procedure for taking post-construction approval for its yoga centre from SEIAA and why it requested to withdraw its application. This report will be updated if a response is received.