Defence Ministry working on new policy for using Army for civilian purposes

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry is working on a new policy for using Army for civilian causes, a move that comes amid a raging controversy over the force building a pontoon bridge over the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation's upcoming World Culture Festival in New Delhi.

The Defence Secretary has been asked by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to look into the matter so that a controversy is avoided the next time.

As per the initial plan, the help of the Army can be requisitioned by either the Chief Secretary or the Director General of Police of a state.

The preparations at the AOLF event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

The preparations at the AOLF event. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

It is not the first time that the Army has been involved in a private event. It had built two pontoon bridges for a Yanni concert behind Taj Mahal on the banks of Yamuna in 1997, sources said.

In the current case, Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra had written to Parrikar seeking pontoon bridges of the Army.

In a letter dated February 16, Mishra, Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture, Language and Water, said that a large gathering of people is expected to congregate at the Festival.

"A very large number of people, who will be approaching the venue from Noida Link Road side, will be required to cross Yamuna to reach the venue of the Festival...Provision of adequate number of pontoon bridges on Yamuna river (around four) is being seen as imperative for this purpose.

"We have learnt that the Army is making 1 pontoon bridge. This is not adequate for the safe movement of the large gathering and hence (we) request the Army for building at least one more pontoon bridge over river Yamuna," he said.

The AAP Minister, however, said that Delhi government would not bear any expenditure whatsoever.

Defence sources have said that the decision to rope in the Army was taken keeping people's safety in mind.

"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 authorities concerned to host the event. If a permission has been given, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure everything is run smoothly," sources had said.

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 given a report saying that there are fears of stampede and hence the Army might build another bridge," the sources said.


Updated Date: Mar 09, 2016 19:51 PM

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