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Why is Army erecting pontoon bridge for Sri Sri’s mega event?

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New Delhi :The Indian Army, which has built a pontoon bridge on the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation’s upcoming World Culture Festival, is likely to build one more to ease movement of lakhs of people who are expected to attend the controversy-ridden mega event.

The development came even as there was criticism from some quarters, including the social media, about using Army to build the floating bridge for such an event.

“Lakhs of people are expected to turn up. There is a question of law and order and also fears of stampede.

Permission has been granted by concerned authorities to host the event. If a permission has been given, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything is run smoothly,” highly placed defence soures told PTI.

They said the organisers had approached the Defence Ministry seeking six such bridges but the Army was asked to erect only one. A second bridge has been erected by the PWD.

“The Delhi Police has now given a report saying that there are fears of stampede and hence the Army might build another bridge,” the sources said, adding that a Minister from the Delhi government has also written to the Ministry highlighting the need for such bridges.

The sources said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had asked the Defence Secretary to look into the issue. During his interaction with the Army, the force wondered whether their personnel should be used to help a “private event”.

“The Minister was of the view that since permission has been granted, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything was fine. The Army, which has the expertise, was asked to step in keeping the larger good of people in mind,” the sources said.

They added that the Army has been used during Kumbh Mela and even the Commonwealth Games.

Told that the event has come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal, which looks after the environmental issues, sources said the Army is only helping people and it is up to the concerned authorities to grant permission or withdraw it.

President Pranab Mukherjee will not be attending the festival in the wake of controversy over holding the three-day cultural function on the Yamuna flood plains beginning here this Friday.

Mukherjee had earlier agreed to attend the valedictory ceremony on Sunday.

While the organisers of the function expect lakhs of people to attend the function, concerns have been raised by experts about the damage to the environment that may be caused as the three-day event was being held on flood plains of the river in east Delhi.

The National Green Tribunal is hearing a petition which has claimed that the organisers will release ‘enzymes’ into 17 drains that flow into Yamuna for cleaning the river. A judgement is expected tomorrow.

President Pranab Mukherjee today decided to pull out of a cultural extravaganza being organised by Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a controversy raged over the three-day event on the flood plains of river Yamuna that has raised environmental concerns.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate event on Friday and the President was to attend the valedictory function on Sunday.

“The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances,” an official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan said today.

The event drew criticism after some activists petitioned the National Green Tribunal, a qusai judicial body on environmental issues, asking it to stop the event as it would have a deep impact on the Yamuna flood plains. The Tribunal is expected to give its judgement tomorrow.

While the organisers expect 35 lakh people to attend the function, concerns have been raised by experts about the likely damage to the environment that may be caused by holding it on the flood plains of the already polluted river in east Delhi.

The AOL foundation, which is organising the function, will have yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers by Sanskrit scholars and traditional cultural performances from around the world.

The three-day event will be held from March 11-13 on the west bank of Yamuna to celebrate 35 years of the foundation.

Earlier, the green panel had issued notices to the Delhi government, Delhi Development Authority and the foundation on another plea seeking stoppage of ongoing construction work on the flood plains.

It had also constituted an expert committee headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to inspect the site of the proposed festival.

Ravi Shankar, however, has defended holding of the event saying that he would have received a red carpet welcome in any other country for holding such an event.

Comparing the importance of the festival to the Olympics, Shankar also said that the NGT report is biased.
He said the committee constituted by the NGT was “biased” and claimed that the organisers of the event had not cut a single tree.

He denied claims that the Yamuna flood plains was being destroyed because of the event and said it was eco-friendly function.

The National Green Tribunal will resume a crucial hearing tomorrow on pleas seeking cancellation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna flood plains to celebrate 35 years of the foundation.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar will hear the matter in which Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Uttar Pradesh and Delhi government will make their submissions with regard to grant of permission to the festival.

On March 3, DDA had submitted that it had granted conditional permission for organising the event and had no idea about the magnitude of the programme.

The DDA had denied the suggestion that it had provided 3.5 hectare of land for a parking lot on the banks of the river and said it had only provided over 20 hectares for the recreational programme.
The NGT is also hearing a plea against the foundation’s plan to release ‘enzymes’ into 17 drains joining Yamuna for cleaning the river.

Earlier, the green panel had issued notices to the Delhi government, DDA and Art of Living Foundation on another plea seeking stoppage of ongoing construction on the flood plains.

It had also constituted an expert committee headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to inspect the site of the proposed festival.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army, which has built a pontoon bridge on the Yamuna for the festival, is likely to build one more to ease movement of a large number of people expected to attend the controversy-ridden mega event.

The Art of Living foundation, which is organising the function, will have yoga and meditation sessions, peace prayers by Sanskrit scholars and traditional cultural performances from India and abroad.

PTI

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