US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be on an official two-day visit to India between February 24 and 25, and they will be starting their trip from Gujarat where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will personally receive them at the airport. This is Trump's first visit to India, which is probably why the government has taken the Herculean task of "revamping" the country before the POTUS and FLOTUS fly in.
From building a wall in Ahmedabad to releasing 14,000 litres of water into the Yamuna, the government is on its 'Swacch Bharat' mission, trying to cover up everything that may portray the country in an unfavourable light. Incidentally, it does not seem very different from when a guest arrives at our house unannounced and we are forced to clean up our room.
Build a Wall
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation will be building a half kilometre, four-foot wall along the road that connects Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad, and the purpose is to hide around five hundred kutcha houses in the Dev Saran or the Saraniyavaas slum area.
In short, the Ahmedabad government wants to hide the poverty rampant in the country by building a wall, in the name of Atithi Devo Bhawa. But can a wall really hide the fact that India ranks 129 on the Human Development Index as of 2019 or that India is home to 28 per cent of the world's poor? Given that Trump has an affinity for walls, the AMC is probably hoping he'll appreciate this one.
Catch em' dogs
That's not all. Ahmedabad has a well known stray dog problem. Last year, a report in the Ahmedabad Mirror claimed that the AMC received over six hundred complaints of dog menace every month. The same report claimed that people were scared to step out of their homes without a stick in fear of these aggressive dogs away or even let children out of the house without supervision. More than 40 cases of dog bites had been reported in one year.
Now that Trump will be participating in a 22 kilometre long roadshow in Ahmedabad with over one lakh people attending the event, the AMC clearly doesn't want stray dogs to create a nuisance and cause embarrassment to the government. Hence, the Cattle and Dog Nuisance Control Department (CDNCD) has been appointed to capture any stray dog or bull they see roaming the streets.
What is noteworthy here is that despite multiple complaints to the AMC about the strays, all that the authorities did was vaccinate them and leave them there. An earlier report had noted that simply vaccinating the dogs did nothing to alleviate the problem. But who knows, maybe Trump's arrival could be a blessing in disguise?
Paint the walls
Reportedly, the Gujarat government will be spending roughly 80 crores prepping for Trump's visit. The beautification process also includes painting walls with messages of harmony between the US and India. Photos of colourful walls with Trump posters are galore:
No surprises, but Agra is also on the agenda for Trump. After all, any foreign diplomat's visit to India would be incomplete without a customary visit to one of the eight wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. But gone are the days when tourists would scurry to the top of the monument to get a spectacular view of the Yamuna River; it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world and has a stench that almost makes it impossible to enjoy the beauty all around.
A study conducted last year, which involved collection of samples from the Yamuna, showed that the river was saturated with domestic and industrial waste which are released in huge quantities into the waters every year.
But in order to shield Trump and Melania from the foul smell, 500 cusecs of water has been released into the Yamuna, so as to improve the "environmental condition" of Agra. The Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department believes that this will also improve the oxygen level in the Yamuna in Mathura and in Agra. While this move may not make the Yamuna's water fit for drinking, it could definitely eradicate the fetid smell.
That's not all. The Taj Mahal itself is being cleaned. Here's a photo of how the massive monument is being renovated before Trump's visit:
But can one really wipe away the yellow patches that have formed on the magnificent white marble? The 17th century monument has been turning yellow with green and brown streaks owing to extensive air pollution in Agra and swarms of insects damaging the walls.
Get rid the monkeys
Anyone who's ever visited the monument would testify that the Taj Mahal is home to hundreds of monkeys. Unfortunately, the poor animals aren't too keen on tourists gawking or clicking pictures of them and there have been numerable reports of the monkeys behaving aggressively towards people visiting the monument.
A report in Reuters published last year mentioned how the security personnel at Taj Mahal had resorted to slingshots as the only effective weapon against the monkeys attacking tourists. Turns out, this time too, Trump's guards accompanying him and Melania would be well-armed with slingshots to drive monkeys away.
While there were reports earlier of no major deal being signed between India and the US during Trump's stay, the US President's trip may after all be a good thing for the country--Ahmedabad residents may finally have a solution to their dog problem, the Taj Mahal may appear whiter before the pollution takes over again and the Yamuna may stink a little less. But is this just temporary relief? One can only hope otherwise.