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No Monkey Business: Agra Admin Pulls out All Stops to Ensure Simian-free Taj Mahal Trip for Trumps

A hoarding welcoming US President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Ahmedabad. (AP)

A hoarding welcoming US President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Ahmedabad. (AP)

What has made the Agra administration go bananas is the menace of the local monkeys. Their numbers have been pegged at anywhere between 500 to 5,000 and the animals have made the area around the Mughal-era monument their love nest.

Shreya Dhoundial
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New Delhi: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are set to be accorded royal treatment in Agra once landing there after a packed five-hour trip in Ahmedabad.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has pulled out all stops to ensure the US first family is swept off its feet.

Trump will be welcomed by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on his arrival at the airport in Agra where hundreds of artistes will perform, a top official said on Sunday.

"The UP governor and chief minister will welcome US President Trump at the Kheria airport. However, they will not accompany him to the Taj Mahal. The governor and the chief minister would also be at the airport to send him off," said Agra District Magistrate (DM) Prabhu N Singh.

The 10-km route from the airport to the Amar Vilas Palace has been turned into a green zone with 16,000 potted plants appearing on the road overnight. Children carrying 60,000 Indian and American flags will line up and cheer for the Trumps as they pass the stretch.

Also in the line-up are performances by 3,000 dancers who will be stationed at 21 spots and showcase the state’s cultural traditions. The Trumps are expected to take in all these sights and sounds in their eight-minute journey from the airport to the 17th-century ‘Monument of Love’.

"At the airport, about 250 artistes will do special performances reflecting the beauty and culture of Uttar Pradesh," said the district magistrate. "Along the route to the Taj, a total of 3,000 artistes spread over 21 designated areas will present dance forms of Brij, Awadh and other regions, like Krishna Leela, dances themed on Radha, and other cultural forms of the regions."

Petrol pumps falling along the stretch have been ordered to be emptied out.

Doordarshan, which will broadcast this live, has placed multiple cameras along the route as well as inside the Taj Mahal.

What the US President will, however, not see is the wildlife around the Taj Mahal that poses a threat to locals and tourists on a daily basis.

The Nagar Nigam, in its mission to impress the US entourage, has packed off all cows roaming around the Taj to ‘gaushalas’ (shelters), while stray dogs have been let off outside the city limits. A Danish tourist, who was earlier this month mauled by a cow while he was taking pictures, had suffered two fractures and a minor head injury.

But what is making the Agra administration go bananas is the menace of the local monkeys. Their numbers have been pegged at anywhere between 500 to 5,000 and the animals have made the area around the Mughal-era monument their love nest.

The administration is keeping a close watch on the simians that are difficult to control. About 125 policemen have been stationed on rooftops to ensure none of these primates manage to gatecrash the Trumps' Taj party. The authorities have also deployed five langurs as part of the security detail on the 10-km VIP route for the job.

Given the number of national and global headlines Agra's simian species can manage to generate, the administration is not willing to say much on record.

“Over the years, we have tried everything to get rid of the monkey population around the Taj. A tamed langur was hired to scare them, but that didn't help. Killing them is not an option," said a civic official. "Firing in the air doesn't scare them beyond a point. Our security staff now carries slingshots to scare them off. This time, we are fully prepared to give the Trump family a monkey-free outing. This monkey business in just a hype.”

For the last 15 days, Agra, considered one of the dirtiest tourist towns in India, has been getting a quick-fix makeover. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been personally supervising the mud-pack treatment being given to the tombs of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz inside the monument.

His instruction to the administration is clear: "The Trump family should feel that Agra is celebrating a festival when they come."

Even the undernourished and stinking Yamuna that flows by the monument is getting some love and care ahead of the visit. About 1,100 cusecs of water have been released into it to make it look flushed and "happy", while all plastic waste has been removed from its water and banks.

The state government has refused to divulge just how much money is being spent on the two-hour private visit of the Trump couple who will be accompanied by the president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. However, a senior official on condition of anonymity said the cost is worth it.

"This is the Indian way. We clean our homes if guests are coming or there is a wedding in the family. If a VIP visit can clean up the place to such an extent, I would say the Trumps should come here every year. Also, this is such a great advertisement for Agra. That too for free," said the official.

While Agra prepares to impress the Trumps with their 'mehman nawazi' (hospitality), there are some rules that will not be bent even for the world’s most important man. In keeping with a Supreme Court order, no petrol and diesel car will be allowed within 500m of the Taj.

The Trump entourage will have to leave the 'Beast' behind at Amar Vilas and take an electric bus or golf cart to the Royal Gate 500m away. The 900m walk from there to the white marble mausoleum will perhaps be their prettiest.

And no, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Adityanath will not accompany them to the Taj.

(With inputs from PTI)

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