The Delhi Police has warned of “stampede”, “pandemonium” and “utter chaos” unless shortcomings in the arena for the World Culture Festival, being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation on the Yamuna floodplains, are attended to immediately.
In a letter to the Ministry of Urban Development after an inspection of the venue, along with the organisers, on March 1, police redflagged the “shortcomings”, saying the stage, where the Prime Minister and several VVIPs are to be seated, lacks a structural stability certificate, a prerequisite for any such gathering.
It warned of the possibility of “pandemonium which is bound to result in utter chaos leading to total breakdown of law and order”.
The Central Public Works Department, Delhi government and Delhi Development Authority — the DDA granted permission for the event — have refused to give the festival stage the mandatory structural stability certificate, police wrote to the Ministry.
On Tuesday, the Centre also issued an advisory to police, asking it to take adequate measures to prevent any stampede-like situation at the festival venue.
The police inspection team observed a huge stage being constructed at the venue for performances by artists — nearly 36,000 artists, according to the Art of Living.
“The Prime Minister’s security wing of Delhi Police had taken up the matter with the CPWD to give structural stability certificate, but they have refused to give them the certificate, saying they should take up the matter with the Delhi PWD or DDA for such certification.
But it has been learnt that even the Delhi PWD and DDA are not willing to give any kind of certification to them,” police said.
In its letter to the Ministry of Urban Development, police said: “As structural stability certification is a prerequisite requirement for any such programme where heads of state of government are present, the intervention of Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Urban Development is very much required to facilitate… the structural stability certification for the stage, the place where the VVIP would be sitting, the media stand and the backdrop of the stage, all the pontoon bridges, set up for the event.”
The inspection team also observed that the organisers had initially promised seven pontoon bridges on the Yamuna. But so far only one pontoon bridge had been made and work on another pontoon bridge was underway. “On inspection of the pontoon bridge which has been put, it was found that the condition is ‘very poor’ and it is not stable,” the letter stated.
“As per field craft estimates, approximately 15,000 people can cross one pontoon bridge in one hour. The organisers have been informed that only two pontoon bridges will be grossly inadequate to cater to 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh people to reach the venue. So at least four pontoon bridges are required to be put up by the organisers through the Indian Army or Irrigation Department of Uttar Pradesh for ensuring smooth and safe passage of the invitees,” police said.
According to the inspection report, there is “distinct possibility of people falling in the river” since there is no wire-meshing along the bridge. The organisers have been already informed about this inadequacy several times.
“As per the organisers, nearly 10,000 cars would be carrying the invitees and will be parked at different places on the Yamuna floodplains. But as of now, land has not been made suitable for parking of vehicles… the land is having shrubs, bushes and wild vegetation. Besides, approach roads to the proposed venue are not fit for cars… and there is need for some road engineering… for smooth parking,” police said.
Police also said in the letter that the organisers were “repeatedly” advised to approach government agencies such as Army, Central paramilitary forces, CPWD, Irrigation and Flood Control Department of UP, to complete the work within the next three-four days so that Delhi Police can provide security cover.
Meanwhile, in another communication Tuesday, the Centre directed police to factor in local “threat perception and intelligence inputs”.
“Parking spaces for vehicles coming from trans-Yamuna through gate number 10, 11, 12 and 13 are limited and are still underprepared, the number of vehicles gaining entry through these gates should be restricted exactly to the availability of the proper parking space,” a source said.