Why is Isha Foundation taking money to plant trees? Petition against 'Cauvery Calling'

The Karnataka High Court issued notices to the state government after a petition was filed questioning the 'Cauvery Calling' campaign launched by Isha Foundation headed by 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev. The petition raised questions about how the foundation was collecting funds from the public for the campaign.

The petition was filed by advocate AV Amarnathan questioning the Karnataka government for supporting 'Cauvery Calling'. It mentions an event involving Jaggi Vasudev and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in which it was announced that 2 crore saplings would be provided by the Karnataka government.

Cauvery Calling is a nation-wide campaign focused on the Cauvery river and under the campaign, the Isha Foundation claims to plant 242 crore trees along the Cauvery river under the umbrella of the Rally for Rivers, a campaign launched by the same foundation earlier.

The point of contention however is that Isha Foundation - which enjoys the patronage of several celebrities, industrialists, politicians and CSR wings of multinational companies - has called for people to donate Rs 42 per tree. A look at the website by the foundation shows that as of Wednesday, contributions to plant almost 4 crore trees were collected. Through three crowdfunding links provided on the website, donations have come in for 1.4 lakh trees - which adds up to Rs 58 lakh. Whether this is only from individuals or also from companies and organisations is unclear.


A screenshot from https://www.ishaoutreach.org/en

The petitioner AV Amarnathan sought directions from the court to stop the Isha Foundation from collecting money from the public for the Cauvery Calling campaign.

The petitioner questioned the need for the Isha Foundation to collect money from the public for planting trees along the Cauvery river. "The Isha Foundation is planning to plant 253 crores plants to save Cauvery river. The report states that the Isha Foundation is collecting Rs. 42/- per tree planting from the public. That means the Isha Foundation is collecting a sum of Rs, 10,626/- crores. This collection of money from the public is very disturbing," argued the petitioner. 

The petitioner questioned if such a sum can be allowed to be collected by a private organization to do work on government/public land. 

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev flagged off Cauvery Calling in a bike rally starting in Talacauvery, the birthplace of the Cauvery river on September 3. 

In an event held in Palace Grounds in Bengaluru on September 8, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announced that the state Forest Department would donate 2 crore saplings for the movement. The event was attended by BJP leaders CT Ravi and PC Mohan.

The petitioner also argued that in the past personalities like Saalumarada Thimakka and Jadav Payeng had planted trees in the state without collecting money from the public. 106-year-old Saalumarada Thimmakka is an environmentalist from Karnataka who became famous after planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre highway stretch between Hulikal and Kudoor village in Tumakuru district. Jadav Payeng is credited with planting saplings and seeds along a dry sandbar by the Brahmaputra river in Assam, creating a forest over 500 acres of land.

Thimakka

AV Amarnathan has also asked if the Karnataka government gave approval for donating saplings after going through studies that Isha Foundation claims has been done on the Cauvery basin. “The state also has to study the project, and look into the pros and cons of the said project to give approval for such a huge project,” the petition said.

Justice Mohammad Nawaz hearing the case asked the Karnataka government and Isha Foundation to file objections within three weeks.