PM, thousands attend controversial Art of Living event despite rains
The three-day World Culture Festival being organised by the Art Of Living Foundation commenced in New Delhi on Friday evening after initial disruptions caused by rain and traffic snarls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the venue shortly after 5.30 pm.
Thousands of participants stuck on roads due to traffic snarls and pathways leading to the venue on the Yamuna floodplain turning into mush.
As the dusty Yamuna floodplain turned to slush, it made walking virtually impossible and vehicles got stuck. Those who were already inside ran for cover to escape the downpour.
Organisers wore a look of concern as the skies darkened over Delhi. The dark clouds along with rolling thunder followed by heavy rains left the organisers, participants and the onlookers drenched and miserable.
People were seen covering themselves with plastic sheets. Some others took out brightly coloured umbrellas.
“It is slippery. The road leading to the venue has turned marshy. I had to walk carefully,” said Anuj Kumar, who had come from north Delhi to attend the cultural jamboree.
Policemen and volunteers tried to manage the crowd, but could not control the chaos.
As per the forecast of two leading weather agencies, the IMD and Skymet Weather Services, the showers on Friday followed by heavy rain may cause disruptions on Saturday and Sunday as well. The World Culture Festival is being held from March 11 to 13.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) and the day after that, there are fair chances that it would rain in the early morning, late afternoon and evening, with strong winds and thundershowers. It may spoil the event,” said Mahesh Palawat, director of Skymet, India’s only private weather forecasting agency.
The event has already landed in controversy for allegedly flouting the environmental regulations and degrading the ecology of the Yamuna floodplain.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation informed the authorities that three lakh people would attend the event. However, in its promotional literature, it had claimed that 35 lakh people would come from 155 countries.
The organisers had told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that they had spent Rs 25.63 crore for the event.
Traffic snarls also caused hardships to those who had to catch their trains from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, which is not very far from the event venue adjoining the busy Delhi-Noida flyway. Many train travellers had to walk more than three kilometres carrying their luggages on their shoulders.
“I had to walk to catch my train to Mumbai and had a tough time because I was not aware that the road to Nizamuddin railway station will be choked,” said Sachin Balakrishnan from Mayur Vihar.