The defence ministry is working on a new policy for using the Indian Army for civilian causes. This move comes amid a raging controversy over the force building a pontoon bridge over the Yamuna for an upcoming event by Art of Living Foundation.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has asked the defence secretary to look into the matter, to avoid controversy in future.
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.
It is not the first time 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 a letter dated February 16, Delhi minister Kapil Mishra said, “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 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,” Mishra said.
The AAP minister, however, said that the Delhi government would not bear any expenditure. Defence sources have said 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 fear 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.
Sources said 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.