Ahmedabad: Undertaking beatification drives before the head of a powerful state visits the country is not so unusual, but the Gujarat administration has gone a step further for US President Donald Trump.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has decided to conceal slum communities and any sights of poverty that the US President may deem unseemly by building half-a-kilometre long wall on the stretch that leads to Gandhinagar from Ahmedabad airport, the Indian Express has reported.
The wall, with a height of six or seven feet, will come up alongside the road connecting the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to Indira Bridge.
This is the route that the US President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take on February 24 for their roadshow, when the two visit the state for a massive event at the newly built Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium on the lines of ‘Howdy, Modi’, which was held in Houston last year.
The wall is being built, officials told the newspaper, to hide the more than 500 kutcha houses at the Dev Saran or Saraniyavaas slum area. The slums have an estimated population of 2,500.
Once the slums are concealed, plantation of date palms will be done along the stretch as part of the beautification drive. Roads that were in dire need for repair and were not resurfaced for years will also be re-laid for the visit. In all, 16 roads will be resurfaced for Trump’s visit and decorative lighting may also be installed along the route the US President takes.
The overall cost of the beautification is expected to be around Rs 50 crore, the Ahmedabad Mirror reported.
Before the visit of Trump’s daughter Ivanka to Hyderabad in 2017, a similar exercise was taken up as police rounded up beggars from streets and detained them to hide the poverty on display.
Beautification drives were also held when Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe visited Gujarat for two days in 2017, and when China’s President Xi Jinping visited in 2014.
The government is pulling out all the stops to make Trump’s visit a huge success. In a video released on Wednesday, the US President was seen telling reporters how Modi had said there might be “5 to 7 million people just from the airport to the new stadium (Motera)”, which would be nearly the population of the whole of Ahmedabad city.
Speaking to reporters at the Oval office a day after the White House announced dates of his visit, Trump said, “He (Modi) said we will have millions and millions of people. My only problem is that last night we probably had 40,000 or 50,000 people… I’m not going to feel so good… There will be five to seven million just from the airport to the new stadium. And you know is the largest stadium in the world. He’s (Modi) building it now…”