The Delhi Police had on Tuesday expressed its concern about a stampede and chaos at the World Culture Festival being organised by the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led Art of Living Foundation on the flood plains of the Yamuma River in New Delhi.
According to IBN-Live, a report prepared by a DCP rank officer that was submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development, Art of Living and the Lieutenant Governor reveals that instead of the proposed seven pontoon bridges, only one has been built and the second one is under construction. Each bridge is fit to hold 15,000 people in an hour, not two to three lakh people that are actually expected to turn up each hour.
This massive event is supposed to be attended by 30 lakh people and sources close to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had told IANS that the Army was putting up pontoon bridges at the venue after such concerns by the Delhi Police.
There is also concern over the structural instability of the bridges and absence of mesh wiring that could cause a stampede the report said, according to the IBN-Live report.
The army, according to the source, was approached by the Art of Living Foundation for construction of six bridges across the Yamuna to the flood plain where the mega event is being organised.
The army had initially refused, but it was only after Delhi Police expressed fear of a stampede that the defence ministry agreed to engage the army in the process.
"Public safety is a government concern, and Delhi police said there could be a stampede with the huge crowd gathering there," sources close to the defence minister told IANS.
"It was in that view that the ministry asked the army to assist with the construction of the bridges," the source said.
Other reports suggest that the Central Public Works Department, Delhi government and Delhi Development Authority had refused to give a mandatory certificate of structural stability to the stage being constructed for the festival.
"The Prime Minister’s security wing of Delhi Police had taken up the matter with the CPWD to give structural stability certificate, but they have refused to give them the certificate, saying they should take up the matter with the Delhi PWD or DDA for such certification. But it has been learnt that even the Delhi PWD and DDA are not willing to give any kind of certification to them," The Indian Express quoted the police as saying.
Apart from the instability of bridges and the stage in itself, there are also concerns that the police have raised on parking of cars that will carry guests to the festival.
The Indian Express quoted the Delhi Police as saying, "As per the organisers, nearly 10,000 cars would be carrying the invitees and will be parked at different places on the Yamuna floodplains. But as of now, land has not been made suitable for parking of vehicles… the land is having shrubs, bushes and wild vegetation. Besides, approach roads to the proposed venue are not fit for cars… and there is need for some road engineering… for smooth parking."
While involving the army for the festival had drawn sharp criticism, the concerns of the Delhi Police have raised questions about how the Art of Living Foundation plans to go ahead in the event when it could cost the lives of thousands of people.
The National Green Tribunal too criticised and questioned the Centre over permission for this festival. "You (MoEF) file an affidavit by tomorrow and tell us why no environmental clearance is needed for raising temporary structures in flood plains," a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swantanter Kumar told the Centre on Tuesday.
The Green Panel also questioned the building up of pontoon bridge by the army on river Yamuna, and asked the DDA counsel as who gave the permission for setting it up.
DDA and the Delhi government, the Ministry of Environment and Forest said had no relation with the grant of permission for setting up the pontoon bridge as all the three said that they are concerned only with different issues.
While DDA said it was only required to give no objection certificate for the bridge, the Delhi government submitted that its role for the pontoon bridge comes only at the time of flood and MoEF passed the buck on Ministry of Water Resources.
Art of Living (AOL) in its submission said that it had taken the requisite permissions from all the authorities except from the police which is subject to permission from fire department and they have fulfilled all the conditions.
With agency inputs