Art of Living event row: Away from media glare, participants gear up

  • Mallica Joshi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 11, 2016 01:43 IST

It takes a few minutes to move your eyes from one end of the stage to the other. It is said to be the world’s biggest stage ever constructed. Volunteers, artists, police and army personnel, commandos and organisers all scurried about on Thursday to prepare for the World Culture Festival that starts on Friday evening.

Several hundred artists rehearsed on the massive stage, built over an area of 7 acres. It is 1,200 feet long, 200 feet wide and 40 feet high.

Enthusiastic volunteers ran from one place to the other, making sure the seating, carpeting, booths and other arrangements are in place. On Thursday, separate trash cans for dry and wet garbage were placed at several locations of the venue. The water disposal contract has been given to a private firm. Water for non-potable purposes has been sourced from private tankers.

Greenrooms for artists were in use while a separate area for food arrangements was functional. Small kiosks for water were also set up in many corners.

The volunteers are not concerned about the controversy surrounding the event, which has been planned on the eco-sensitive and plundered floodplains.

“This event is of a scale that no one had ever thought could happen in India. We have artists from all parts of the world. We should be proud. There is no ecological damage at all,” said Devesh Sharma, a volunteer who has come to Delhi from Allahabad.

A look around, however, shows big floodlight pillars fixed in the ground that workers say were supported using concrete and big stones, flattened and packed land and buses, road rollers, and cars all around.

Earlier, this part of the floodplain was home to tall grass, shrubs, a couple of trees and vegetable farms.

Tin-sheet barricading is coming up around the venue to ensure security. Barricading is also coming up on the three pontoon bridges, built by the Army, to make sure no one falls into the river.

The participants and volunteers are untouched by the harsh words of the National Green Tribunal, which held Art of Living accountable for not disclosing the real scale of the event at the time of taking permission.

“On the ground, all the work is on in full swing. Most things are in place already and we are working to ensure the rest is also done quickly,” said an Art of Living spokesperson.

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