Elaborate security arrangements are in place in this ancient temple town of Varanasi, which is all decked up to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Saturday. The two leaders are likely to arrive at around 4 pm at the Babatpur Airport on the outskirts of the city.
They will be received at the airport, among others, by Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Union Ministers Manoj Sinha and Kalraj Mishra. After a brief stop-over at a hotel, the Prime Ministers will drive straight to the fabled Dashashwamedh Ghat where they will watch the “Ganga Arti”, an exquisitely choreographed ritual performed daily on the banks of the river.
Thereafter, Modi and Abe will interact with dignitaries over dinner wherein invitees include, besides the Governor, the CM and the Union Ministers, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, renowned musician and Padma Bhushan awardee Pandit Channu Lal Mishra, author Neerja Madhav, Pandit Ashok Dwivedi of the Kashi Visvanath Temple Trust and a number of other prominent personalities from various walks of life.
The Prime Ministers are expected to board their return flight to New Delhi at around 8 pm. Nearly 7,000 security personnel have been pressed into service for the high-profile visit lasting about four hours.
Security at the normally crowded Ghat has been taken over by the Army and the Navy while scuba divers of the National Disaster Response Force will be deployed around the make-shift stage which has been erected with the help of pontoons on the river bed.
Personnel of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) have been camping in the city since Tuesday. They are being assisted by the National Security Guard, Anti-Terrorist Squad, Central Para Military Forces and the state police.
The entire 22-km-long route, from Babatpur airport to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, is dotted with posters, banners and banners of various designs, welcoming the two Prime Ministers. Some of these also carry messages in the Japanese script.
Roads have been freshly macadamized while traffic restrictions have been in place since last night itself.