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Defence ministry told army to build bridges for Sri Sri event

Seeking to put to an end to the controversy over the Indian Army being roped in to set up floating bridges for an upcoming mega cultural extravaganza upcoming event by Art of Living, defence ministry sources said on Tuesday the decision was taken after the Delhi Police expressed fears of a stampede at the venue on the banks of River Yamuna.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2016 09:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Indian Army,Art of Living,Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation is unlikely to foot the bill for a pontoon bridges made for the event as the defence ministry has no policy in place to charge for such events. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

The Indian Army was directed by the defence ministry to build floating bridges for Art of Living’s upcoming event on the Yamuna floodplain after the Delhi Police expressed fears of a stampede at the venue, ministry and army officials said Tuesday.

The army’s effort to build two pontoon bridges have come under criticism amid growing opposition to the March 11 event that critics say will damage the eco-sensitive Yamuna floodplain. Organisers of the event expect 35 lakh visitors from across the country to show up at the three-day festival. The number of concurrent visitors at any time is estimated to range from 2 to 3 lakh.

Read: Prez pulls out of Art of Living’s Yamuna event: What we know so far

Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s AOL Foundation hasn’t had to pay anything for the construction of the bridges because the army doesn’t have a policy of charging a fee for such help, which it usually extends at times of natural disasters.

The Art of Living had approached the army to set up six pontoon bridges across the river to the floodplain, but the force was reluctant, said an Indian army official who didn’t want to be named because sensitive nature of the issue.

Read: 5 things you need to know about Art of Living cultural festival

It agreed to build a couple after receiving a directive from the defence ministry, where officials defended the decision citing concerns around public safety.

The construction of the bridges has been criticised on the ground that the army was being pressed into facilitating what is seen as an event organized in violation of public rules and regulations.

Following the public outcry, defence minister Manohar Parrikar is reported to have asked his ministry to put together a policy for the army’s involvement in such events.

First Published: Mar 08, 2016 18:19 IST