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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Trump visit: Areas near Taj Mahal get facelift but will it be maintained, ask locals

Trump is likely to stay at Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel while visiting the Taj and attending a cultural programme.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | Agra | Updated: February 19, 2020 8:04:04 am
Trump visit: Areas near Taj Mahal get facelift but will it be maintained, ask locals Fountains being cleaned at Taj Mahal ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

Fresh coats of paint, potholes covered with dry tar, uniformly coloured shop hoardings, newly dug pavements and broad roads await US President Donald Trump on his scheduled maiden visit to the Taj Mahal on February 24.

Trump is likely to stay at Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel while visiting the Taj and attending a cultural programme.

As Agra administration undertakes the beautification process at breakneck speed, several factors that might present tangible problems, remain.

Trump visit: Areas near Taj Mahal get facelift but will it be maintained, ask locals Hoardings at the beginning of a 350-metre bridge put up by PWD states, “This bridge is weak. Only light vehicles allowed.” (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

A 350-metre bridge close to Eidgah Bus Stand is on the likely route between the airport and the hotel. Hoardings at the beginning of the bridge put up by PWD states, “This bridge is weak. Only light vehicles allowed.”

Read | Fingers crossed on Donald Trump visit: Public diplomacy vs trade deal

On Tuesday, work was on to repair and fix lights on the metal arch atop the bridge. At more than 5 tonnes, Trump’s vehicle, “The Beast”, exceeds the weight category allowed on the bridge.

“The final decision rests with the administration as to what the eventual route will be taken. We have written to the Superintendent of Police (Traffic) that heavy vehicles must not be allowed. The bridge is functional, and as per limit vehicular movement takes place,” a Northern Railways official said.

But, other officials said, the bridge has withstood weight of heavy vehicles in the past.

Read | Ahead of Donald Trump visit, 45 families in Gujarat slum served eviction notices

In Agra’s Ajit Nagar, a large gate separates the market and Agra Air Force Station premises, from where Trump’s security cordon is to travel towards the Taj Mahal. The shopkeepers in Khushwah Market in the Kheria area have been asked by the administration to remove individual hoardings at the shops and replace them with a reddish painted board bearing the establishment’s name in Hindi. While more than 50 such shops have already put the boards up, the others have been asked to do so over the next two or three days.

Trump visit: Areas near Taj Mahal get facelift but will it be maintained, ask locals The shopkeepers in Khushwah Market have been asked by the administration to remove individual hoardings at the shops and replace them with a reddish painted board bearing the establishment’s name in Hindi. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

According to an official, the uniform hoardings will make the route look more aesthetic.

“We are not paying and are quite happy that a fresh coat of paint is coming on. We hope this is maintained,” Rajesh, a shopkeeper, said.

But another resident said that the administration does not look into the civic issues ahead of VIP visits. “This entire VIP route has a massive flooding problem. In fact, many VIPs have been taken on a different route to avoid revealing the sewage problems. They can colour and paint and make it look pretty for others (visiting guests), but at the end of the day the locals have to bear it all,” the resident said.

Officials at the Taj Mahal, meanwhile, said monkey menace has come down in an around the heritage site. Basant Swarnkar, senior ASI official at the Taj, said: “There is not a lot of problem with monkeys now. There has not been an incident (monkey attack) in the last few months…there is nothing to fear.”

The local administration is reported to have spent more than Rs 1.5 crore over the last three or four years to sterilise monkeys in the area and bring down the simian population.

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