Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#ObamainIndia: Lutyens' Delhi Comes to Standstill

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs visiting
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama
upon their arrival at Air Force station Palam,
in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore

Luteyns’ Delhi has come to a virtual standstill and no go area as the visit by the Chief Guest for India’s 65th Republic Day celebrations, President Obama, came to town. Obama’s visit has somehow become a bigger celebration than Republic Day itself. The television channels have been covering “Obama in India” with more enthusiasm than Republic Day preparations and other much more important issues. #ObamainIndia is trending on twitter with people reporting and commenting each and every activity of President Obama.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with visiting
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama
wave upon their arrival at Air Force station Palam,
in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore
The moment Modi was allowed to enter United States, he invited the President to India. This is interesting because Modi was earlier not allowed to visit US, and now he has gone out of his way to host the President! Not only that, he even gone to receive President Obama at the airport. Politics can be so uncertain.
New Delhi: A security official guides a visitor at Rajpath
with the national capital having tight security arrangements
ahead of Republic Day celebrations in
New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo by Atul Yadav

But what is more fascinating is the fact that many roads in Delhi are blocked for safety measures. One may wonder if Washington can be brought to such standstill during Modi’s visit. Even when many world leaders assemble in Washington, the public life is least affected. Interestingly, in Delhi, all the blocked roads fall in the Lutyen’s Delhi zone (the area surrounding Rashtrapati Bhavan). Rest of the Delhi- the area where Obama may not travel- remains in the same old condition. The areas in North Delhi, West Delhi, South-West Delhi and many villages in Delhi remain without proper security, and without proper cleanliness. Not that I am trying to put forward a point that Republic Day should be the occasion for annual cleanliness drive, or to see the security measures annually. But the national capital should see such measures on a regular basis- and for all the areas.

Also, because the city sees such activities once in a year, the state is not really prepared to meet the pressure few days before the mega event. The long queues at various Metro stations will substantiate my point. It is only for few days before such events- Republic Day – Independence Day celebration, or during few festivals, that the administrative staff gets active.
Agra: Policemen patrol through the Yamuna river passing
the Taj Mahal monument in Agra on Saturday.
President Barack Obama has cancelled his visit to
the Taj Mahal that had been planned on the
final day of his trip to India. PTI Photo

Obama’s visit has made things more complicated. Earlier it was expected that Mr and Mrs Obama will visit Taj Mahal in Agra, which was later cancelled due to lack of security measures. But the major shopping areas were blocked near the Taj Mahal for preparations relating to President’s visit. “No vehicles were allowed in the Fatehabad Road, near the Taj Mahal. People could only walk in the area. This meant many potential customers were not coming to our café. And thus a daily loss of business.” informed Ashish Shukla, convener of Stop Acid Attacks campaign, which is running a café by the Acid Attack survivors ‘Sheroes Hangout’ on the Fatehabad Road, close to the Taj Mahal. Now that President’s visit to Taj Mahal has cancelled, there is a hope that various shops will be able to run their business properly.
New Delhi: Armed security personnel on guard during
US President Barack Obama’s visit to
 Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Rajghat in New Delhi on Sunday.

It is quite obvious that India faces threat of terrorist attacks on certain occasions- Republic Day being one of them- but this also means India should b pretty well prepared. The security measures must not disrupt public life. The security measures in Delhi are causing huge traffic jams and Delhi metro is witnessing longer queues. These can be avoided only if the country was a pretty well prepared.

This article was first published in LokMarg on January 25, 2015.

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