Friday, March 11, 2016

Terror threat? On eve of mega event, Yamuna floodplain turns into a security fortress

With terror threat looming large, there has been a heightened level of security preparedness at Yamuna floodplains where the World Culture Festival 2016, being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, is due to kick off from 11 March.

The mega 3-day event will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and 172 dignitaries, including heads of states, ministers and parliamentarians from across the world will participate. It will see a congregation of nearly 35 lakh people from around the globe, including 20,000 artists from 155 countries.

The festival is being hosted across 27 acres and is said to be one of the biggest cultural gatherings in recent times. The grand stage, which has been declared “unsafe” by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in its structural safety report, is spread over seven acres of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land between Barapullaha Road and DND flyover.

Although there is no official confirmation on the total number of deployment, sources said more than 4,000 personnel of the Delhi Police and its specialised units like the Quick Response Teams, Special Cell, Crime Branch, Special Branch and Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and dog squad are at work for the event. At least 1,500 officers, including deputy commissioners of police, assistant commissioners of police and inspectors, will be on duty at 69 enclosures at the venue. Another 500 officials will be pressed into service in and outside the hotel where the dignitaries, guests and artistes will stay.

In addition, Special Protection Group (SPG), National Security Guards (NSG), paramilitary forces and Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) personnel have been deployed at the venue to ensure foolproof security of the prime minister and other dignitaries.

The inner enclosures close to the stage and sitting arrangements for dignitaries will be guarded by the SPG, NSG, Delhi Police’s PM security unit, paramilitary forces and Quick Response Team of the city police.

A total of 170 CCTV cameras, including pan–tilt–zoom camera (PTZ camera), and six luggage scanners have been installed. The Delhi Police is also considering using drones for aerial surveillance. The venue has 13 entry points guarded by CISF personnel. Entry number one to nine will have restricted entry for VIPs and VVIPs who will be issued special passes and parking stickers. Gate number 10 to 13 will be for the general public.

“No pointed and sharp objects and lighters will be allowed at the venue. No one will be allowed to carry bags beyond the pontoon bridges built up at the venue to cross the Yamuna. Visitors can carry only water bottles with them,” Major General (retired) SP Sinha, the security head of Art of Living for the event, told Firstpost while giving details of the security arrangements.

He said regular meetings are being held with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), SPG and Delhi Police officials to ensure safety and security of the participants. “We are getting support and cooperation of all agencies of the central as well as state governments,” he added.

Asked if the authorities are capable of conducting a hassle-free event, , he replied, “Hundred percent fool-proof security can never be guaranteed, but we are trying our level best. A total of 45,000 trained volunteers of the Art of Living have also been pressed into service to co-operate with the police officials.”

Asked whether the CPWD has declared the stage unsafe for the prime minister, Sinha said a special stage with container base has been set been set up for the PM and his Cabinet colleagues.

On Plan B in case of emergencies, he said volunteers will be deployed at every five yard at pontoon bridges (which can bear the load of 15,000 people at a time) to control and assist the crowd. “In addition, officials of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) will be present with their 12 boats to tackle any emergency,” he added.

The participants will have to bear bumpy rides and dust to reach the venue. Spraying of pesticides and mosquito replants is going on. Special perfumes will be sprayed during the 3-day programme to kill the odour coming from Yamuna, which has turned into a drain.

“Spreading the message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – One World Family, said Dinesh Ghodke “the World Culture Festival 2016 is a celebration of The Art of Living’s 35 years of service to humanity, spirituality and human values to over 370 million people across 155 countries. The festival emphasizes co-existence and celebrates diversity by bringing together the power of 3.5 million people on a common platform”.

Over 37,000 people will perform at the festival in 3 days. World’s largest stage-WCF will witness the world’s largest stage set up over an area of seven acres. This is an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the ‘Largest temporary stage’ in the world.

More than 20,000 international guests are expected. Sizable contingents from South America, Mongolia, Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Pakistan among others will take part in the event. A total of 650 drummers will arrive from South Africa and 1,000 artists from China will perform here.


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