New Delhi: Amid the raging controversy over World Culture Festival being organised here by the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Indian Army has been facing flak for building two pontoon bridges on the Yamuna river for the event.
Stepping in to clarify, the Defence Ministry has stated that the Army pitched in to help in building supporting infrastructure for the event in view of security and safety of lakhs of people who are expected to attend the event from March 11 to 13 on grounds adjacent to the Yamuna river near Mayur Vihar.
The ministry said the Army has been involved in building bridges on earlier occasions as well.
“Army personnel have made pontoon bridges during the Kumbh mela. The Army had even constructed a foot-over bridge for the Commonwealth Games (in 2010) after a bridge collapsed a few days before the event commenced,” the ministry said.
Ministry sources said the organisers had requested the Army to construct six pontoon bridges on the Yamuna river, but they are making just two.
Meanwhile, Army sources told NDTV that the organisers of the event have been categorically told the liability for any accident will rest with them.
Sources also said the organisers will have to pay up the cost for construction of bridges by the Army.
Safety concerns were raised, including fears of a stampede, as nearly 35 lakh people are expected to attend the event spread over three days.
Several high-profile dignitaries including Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the event.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who had earlier given his consent to attend the opening ceremony, has now declined, amid fears that the event will cause irreparable damage to the Yamuna ecosystem.
The National Green Tribunal is due to rule on petitions against the event, later today.