Not on every foreign leader’s itinerary, Chandigarh is going full throttle to ensure that it presents its most beautiful face to French President Francois Hollande during his January 24 visit here.
UT Adviser Vijay Dev may have gone overboard when he compared the visit in importance to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but the administration is certainly sparing no effort to ensure that it will be remembered.
From fresh flower beds to a fresh coat of paint on everything, including tree trunks, and bamboo chiks to cover up slums, the administration is pulling out all stops for the French President.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive Hollande at the most iconic of Chandigarh’s landmarks, the Rock Garden, before they head out to the Capitol Complex, built by the city’s planner, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The two will spend about three hours in the city before leaving for Delhi, where Hollande is chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
ITBP personnel have been deployed around the Taj hotel, to which the two leaders will repair to an India-France CEOs summit after the visits to the city’s landmarks, which will also include the Government Museum and Art Gallery.
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As many as 4,000 policemen will watch over the city on the day, along with teams of police personnel from anti-sabotage, CID and intelligence wings. According to police sources, the city police have already deployed a team of 35 personnel from intelligence wing to keep vigil on the route from the airport to Sector 17. Chandigarh Police has also taken assistance of special police force from Punjab and Haryana.
Over the past few days, teams of French security personnel have been scouring the spots that Hollande will visit.
Publicly criticised by Modi for shutting the city down in the name of security during an earlier visit by him last year, his first as PM, the administration is walking on eggshells this time. No shutdown has been announced.
The administration has issued instructions that no official at the lower level will be allowed to impose any restriction apart from what has been decided in consultation with NSG and central authorities.
“For Chandigarh, this is a historic event. Its significance will be realised in days to come… The kind of atmosphere that has been created for Chandigarh, it is something you should all cherish. I want all of us to become part of that pride story,” said UT adviser Vijay Dev.