New Delhi: Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Art of Living foundation came under the ire of environmentalists around the country, has many other questions to answer aside from environmental degradation, including the building of pontoon bridges in the Yamuna River.
According to the posters of the three-day Art of Living ceremony which is likely to be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi, approximately 35 lakh people will be attending the event. Activists claim that this event which will be conducted in the floodplains of the Yamuna River will detrimentally affect the sensitive condition of the already-polluted river with heavy footfalls.
But on top of the concerns pertaining to the legitimacy of the event, the degradations it will cause for the dying river, and the industrial waste it will generate, there are additional questions being raised about the building of pontoon bridges by the Indian Army on the river.
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The ruling AAP government in Delhi is apprehensive about the building of pontoon bridges for the event. If, according to the Art of Living pronouncements, more than 35 lakh people are going to attend this event, the pontoons will prove ineffective in saving lives during situations like a stampede or a rush.
Two pontoon bridges have been built already by the Indian army which Sri Sri stated to media that he will pay them for their work. Seven additional pontoon bridges will be built to facilitate the entry of people to both sides of the Yamuna bank. Lands which were previously laid untouched for purification have been levelled for parking of cars and metal scaffoldings have been installed in different areas.
On being asked about his comments on this development, Sri Sri told the media that he will build a bio-diversity park in Yamuna once the event was over. The spiritual leader who claimed that there will be real magic during the event also said that he had been cleaning Yamuna since 2010.
The foundation has received sharp criticism from various quarters for drawing the service of the Indian Army in the construction of these bridges. Having refused the initial overture of the foundation, the defence ministry only acquiesced when the Delhi Police expressed the fear of stampede during the event. And as an encouragement by the defence minister, it has directed the defence secretary to formulate a policy for involving the army in private events in the future.