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World Culture Fest: Brown haze of dust on a bright day

75 Days ago

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Amid continuing controversy over the holding of the World Culture Festival here, the volunteers, workers and performers on Thursday expressed both hope and uncertainty as they slogged to make the three-day event a success.

Their mixed feelings were reflected well in the haze of brown dust -- evidently a result of the feverish construction work going on -- hanging over the venue along the Yamuna river bank on an otherwise bright day.

A large number of Art of Living Foundation workers and security personnel were on the job struggling to put up a good show for the three-day extravaganza that begins on Friday.

However, uncertainty over the fate of the show itself prevailed after Art of Living head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar refused to cough up the fine of Rs.five crore imposed on it by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

"We are not sure now what will happen," remarked one teacher from a singing and music school in southern Delhi, requesting anonymity as he faced the delicate task of explaining the exact status of the event to young performers and their parents.

Organisers at the spot looked serious as teams of Delhi's fire brigade service visited the spot more than once.

Fire brigade officials had earlier expressed the fear of electrical short circuit.

"We will clear all necessary formalities and paper works. It will be a grand show and Delhiites will remember it for years," said Jeevan Thakur, a volunteer.

Army personnel admitted, on condition of anonymity, that their being on the spot and helping organise the show, billed by opposition parties as "a private" affair, has run into controversy.

"We are duty bound and doing our job. Do not drag us into politics and media debate," was the refrain.

No seemed willing to say whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the grand inaugural show on Friday.

Following allegations that the event will damage the Yamuna flood plain and complaints made to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), President Pranab Mukherjee decided not to attend the function.

The long list of eminent people invited to attend the event includes Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, organisers said.

The NGT fined Art of Living Rs.five crore for flouting various environmental regulations. The fine has to be paid latest by Friday.

Police personnel looked busy as security perception was being gauged every hour.

"Providing security is our job. We will provide security cover to all VIPs, participants and those who gather here. But Yamuna today demands awesome security arrangement," said one police official.

Hundreds of workers were still on the job as they kept their fingers crossed waiting impatiently about the "final word" that the show is on.

"We have faith in Guruji (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar). His intent is sacred and the show will be on," said a woman volunteer.

A worker Magan Lal sat cross-legged as he greeted news persons.

"Who told you the show would not take place? We have worked so hard".

(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at nirendra.n@ians. (IANS)

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