Agra decked up to welcome Trump; security forces fortify city, Taj Mahal

From massive billboards bearing greeting messages to street roundabouts decked up with American and Indian flags, Agra is waiting to welcome President Donald Trump on Monday amid a huge security deployment across the city.
Trump is slated to arrive in Agra on Monday evening after jointly attending with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the mega ‘Namaste Trump’ event at the newly built Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.
The city administration is all geared up for the big day and preparations are in full swing to present the “best face of Agra”.
Agra’s Divisional Commissioner Anil Kumar said Trump is slated to arrive at Kheria airport at 4:30 pm where he will be treated to a variety of dances by a group of about 350 artists to the accompaniment of traditional instruments.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will welcome the US president on his arrival at the airport, Agra DM Prabhu N Singh said.
He said huge cutouts and billboards have also been planned to be put up at the airport by Sunday night to welcome him.
“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 will also be at the airport to send him off,” Singh told PTI.
Huge security has been deployed across the city, especially along the nearly 13-km route to be taken by Trump’s convoy from the airport to the Amarvilas hotel, and in and around the Taj.
“There will be a three-layer security tomorrow, the innermost being of the US Secret Service, followed by UP Police and paramilitary forces, and also NSG and PAC. Police commandos have also been deployed,” Singh said, adding, about 3,000 personnel will be guarding the city.
At some place Rapid Action Force personnel could be seen patrolling along the designated route as men in khaki also kept guard to ensure foolproof security. ‘ UP Police commandos, and personnel of police and paramilitary forces also kept a tight vigil in and around the Taj Mahal premises.
According to the Agra DM, Trump is scheduled to arrive at the Taj Mahal complex at 5:15 pm on Monday, and he will spend about an hour at the famed 17th century mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
“The US president’s convoy will travel till the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel situated near the East Gate of the Taj Mahal complex. From there the president, his family and members of high-level delegation accompanying him will move in eco-friendly golf carts to travel into the monument premises,” Singh said.
As per Supreme Court directions, petrol or diesel-operated vehicles are not permitted within 500 m of the Taj Mahal’s gate.
“Many other world leaders prior to him have also taken ride in golf carts while visiting the Taj. So, it’s a normal thing,” Singh added.
The administration has been busy in the last few days in getting streets spruced up, walls beautified with thematic paintings and the lawns of the iconic Taj Mahal bedecked with flowers, giving the historic city of Agra a makeover.
In the main city, old roads are being repaired, road-dividers being painted afresh, illegal hoardings and posters removed, and walls along the route that President Trump will take being decorated with painting reflecting the Brij culture and architectural heritage of Agra.
At many places, artworks greeting Trump have been made by artists who are busy finishing walls ahead of the visit. Water is being sprayed regularly to ensure there is no dust.
Victorian-style lamp posts have been installed in many areas to improve the aesthetic look of the city.
At the Taj Mahal premises, workers were seen cleaning the marbles and sandstones while tourists made the most of the day as travel restrictions are to come into place in the city on Tuesday.
“The Taj Mahal will be closed to visitors from 11:30 am onwards on Tuesday in view of the security,” a senior official of the ASI said.
Water has been continuously discharged into Yamuna in the last few days to improve its environmental condition, and its banks have been cleaned of plastic and other waste. ‘ In Taj Ganj, the area neighbouring the mausoleum, many shops are sporting uniform signboards, as many along the route to be taken by Trump’s convoy.
“About a week ago, the boards were changed to a uniform look for all shops to present a beautiful look, We are very excited about President Trump’s visit,” said Pawan Kumar, who runs a ‘petha’ shop.
Guide Abdul Khan also gushed about the visit, saying it will “boost Agra’s stature and further increase tourism”.
“The fountains have been thoroughly cleaned and flower pots are being put up bearing flowers. Taj doesn’t need any promotion, but an added spotlight will definitely enhance the glory of Taj and of Agra too,” he said.
Satyendar Shukla, an auto-rickshaw driver said, “It is good that the city has been cleaned and beautified, but the administration and people should keep it like this regularly, not just for a VVIP visit.”