Concerts in Delhi: A Distant Dream?

Any teenager who has grown up in Delhi will tell you how much they yearned for their favourite bands to come on tour to India. The meagre handful of international musicians that have come to India in the past have ended up skipping Delhi more times than less. The main cause for this always seems to be ‘security reasons’.

While security is a serious issue in today’s global environment, the fact that Delhi is the national capital and that it has been the target of several terrorist attacks in the past doesn’t further the cause of holding large-scale cultural events in the city. But similar concerns have not prevented concerts from being organised in Mumbai, Bengaluru and the North Eastern states. After the major terrorist attack in Mumbai that occurred barely three years ago, the city did not shy away from hosting the Bryan Adams concert recently. Even states in the North East like Shillong, which have an ongoing security problem in the form of insurgencies, terrorism and the constant threat from the Chinese, have been able to organize such cultural events in the past. So is the problem with Delhi only with respect to security or is there something else involved as well?

The major reason for the Bryan Adams concert being cancelled in Delhi was that the organizers had sold about 10,000 tickets when the venue was meant to hold only about 6,000 people. Part of the fault undoubtedly lies with the organizers for selling too many tickets in their bid to make the most profits in one day. Apparently they also did not obtain the required clearance from the fire authority or take permission for parking arrangements. Another problem was that they did not have a traffic plan despite the fact that the concert was scheduled on a weekday.
At the same time, these issues could easily have been avoided. If the organizers knew that so many people would want to go to the concert, they could have planned for a few more shows in Delhi. The necessity for the various licenses that are required for organizing such a large scale event is a debatable issue, since there probably is just cause for each one of them, but this could also have been cleared out right from the beginning.

The basic issue seems to have been that of the venue not having been constructed for holding massive crowds. This serious deficiency of infrastructure should be a matter of concern, as it really impairs the cultural scene in Delhi. If we aspire to bring our capital on par with the metropolitan cities of the world, we need to be able to host these big events without any embarrassing glitches. Many would argue that the capital has more pressing concerns and more important infrastructure projects to deal with, but this is also a capacity building exercise that needs to be given some reasonable amount of priority. The high level of entertainment tax in Delhi is another disincentive for artists to plan performances here.

Until these issues get sorted out – if they ever do – Bryan Adams is the latest to join the ranks of Iron Maiden and Aerosmith by ditching Delhi.

Shraddha Suresh

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