TN goes all out for Modi-Xi summit: 9,000 policemen, 7,000 students, 700 artists lined up

Arun Janardhanan
A view of Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram Wednesday. (PTI)

NEARLY 7,000 students on the road to cheer the two leaders, 9,000 police personnel, 700 performers, stringent traffic curbs, 500 CCTV cameras and 24/7 vigil along the coast.

Two days to go for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to attend the informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mahabalipuram, 55 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu is going all out to ensure that the pieces are in place for the 200-member delegation from China.

On Tuesday, officials said, an Air China cargo aircraft landed in Chennai with four bulletproof vehicles for Xi and his entourage.

Read | Ancient port town of Mamallapuram gets set for India-China informal meet

“We have arranged 6,800 students to welcome the Chinese President on his arrival at the airport and en route to the hotel where he will take rest before leaving for Mahabalipuram. About 9,000 police personnel are ready for deployment. All traffic intersections from Mahabalipuram to the hotel at Guindy in Chennai, where the Chinese delegation will be staying, will be secured. At least 3,000 police personnel are being brought from other districts,” a senior security officer told The Indian Express.

Chief Secretary K Shanmugam, meanwhile, appointed a team of 34 officers headed by nine IAS officers to ensure smooth transportation of the Chinese delegation in Chennai. A senior official said officers will be deployed at 34 points between the Chennai airport and the shore temple in Mahabalipuram.

“Preparations for cultural events to greet the delegation are in the final stages. About 700 dancers have completed rehearsals. We have arranged folk and traditional dancers, and musicians, too,” said an IAS officer.

Tourism sites such as the Krishna Butterball have been barred for public viewing until the end of the summit.

Officials said the occasion is significant for the state since it's the first event of this magnitude since the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1997. On Wednesday, police personnel were busy conducting door-to-door verification along the East Coast Road from Chennai to Mahabalipuram -- VVIPs from Chennai, including political leaders from all major parties, are expected to take this route.

Officials said several roadside tea stalls have been dismantled, and encroachments on government lands removed.

While the ancient port town of Mahabalipuram received a facelift over the last two weeks, tourist entry has been restricted. Dozens of shops near the shore temple, where Modi and Xi are expected to spend most of their time Friday evening, have been shut for days. Government transport buses have been asked to stop 3 km outside town.

An earlier plan for Xi to stay at the beachside resort near Mahabalipuram was changed after Chinese security personnel cited threats from the sea. Security agencies have imposed restrictions on fishing activities, with the Navy and Coast Guard stepping up patrolling on the Bay of Bengal.

“We are here to make sure that there is no unusual or unnecessary activity of boats in the vicinity as the summit is happening at a beachside resort,” a Coast Guard officer said.