AS Shinzo Abe arrived in Delhi Friday on a three-day visit, top officials, both from central and state government, remained busy in Varanasi giving final touches to the arrangements at Dashashwamedh Ghat where the Japanese premier and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the world famous Ganga aarti Saturday evening.
The temple town, also Modi’s parliamentary constituency, is set to welcome Abe with cultural extravaganza and traditional classical music, beginning the time he and Modi arrive at Babatpur airport Saturday afternoon. They will be welcomed with a shehnai recital by President award winner Ikhlaq Hussain and his brother Zakir. “It is a proud moment that we have got an opportunity to welcome Japanese PM and Modiji,” said Zakir. Ikhlaq used to accompany the late shehnai maestro, Bismillah Khan, during his performances.
A group of Buddhist monks will also perform with trumpets that are generally played during Buddhist ceremonies. Some other groups from India and one from Japan will perform classical dance.
Centre has hired a Delhi-based event management firm that has selected five groups to perform during the welcome ceremony at the airport.
The 30-km stretch connecting Babatpur airport and Dashashwamedh ghat, via Hotel Gateway in Nadesar where both the PMs will have a brief stopover, has been repaired. While civil police and PAC have been deployed on entire route, central forces are deployed at the airport, hotel and the ghat. Temporary shops have been removed from the roadside, which are cleaned by Varanasi Municipal Corporation (VMC) staff who were, for the first time, seen in sleeve-less jackets provided by the civic body.
Varanasi’s District Inspector of Schools (DIOS) Awadh Kishore Singh said students will stand in a queue on both sides of the road with national flags of India and Japan to welcome the PMs near the airport. He added that it was a decision of the schools in Babatpur area.
More than 15 welcome gates, over a dozen hoardings and more than 100 flex boards have been put up on the entire stretch on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Interestingly, the hoardings and flex boards put up by the Government of India agencies have photographs of both the PMs. But, the hoardings and welcome gates put up by the Information Department of UP government have photographs of only Japanese PM with Taj Mahal, Buddhist pilgrimage site Sarnath and state government’s logo of Rising Uttar Pradesh and a message – “UP- Land of Hope”. The hoardings and gates have no photograph of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Modi. Akhilesh with wife and Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav will be in Varanasi to welcome Abe. DGP Jagmohan Yadav and chief secretary Alok Ranjan will also camp in Varanasi. Akhilesh and Dimple are likely to make a night stay in Varanasi. However, it was yet to be confirmed whether Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will reach the temple town.
The VMC, on its part, has put more than 200 flex boards with an appeal to masses to help clean Ganga. Connecting Ganga cleaning project with Japan, VMC at top of these flex boards has written – “JICA assisted Ganga Action Plan Project (Varanasi).” JICA is Japan International Cooperation Agency that extends help in infrastructure development in developing countries.
After a brief rest at the hotel, both the PMs will leave for Dashashwamedh ghat to attend Ganga aarti. Entry of public was prohibited at the ghat Friday. Security personnel have taken the ghat area under their control and Navy personnel were also seen patrolling on steamers in Ganga. Public was diverted towards adjacent Sheetala ghat for watching the evening aarti. District administration has also illuminated the roads with LED bulbs and strings of lights on both the sides.
Barricading has been done in the entire area around Kashi Vishwanath temple area to prevent unwanted entry of any person during movement of fleet of PMs between hotel and the Dashashwamedh ghat.