Mumbai turns fortress ahead of Obama visit

Obama is expected to stay in one of the grand suites of the newly opened heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel, which was the venue of the 62-hour long siege by Pakistani terrorists.

It’s still sometime before the President actually lands in Mumbai, but the process of sanitisation and security review has already begun. From placing of police barricades to patrolling, the security machinery is gearing up.

 While the Gateway of India, bang opposite the Taj, will be off the limits for tourists and visitors, Colaba causeway will see a controlled inflow of shoppers. From hawkers to tour guides to photographers, everyone at the Gateway of India has been asked to shut shops from the night of November 5 till the President leaves.

 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation officials are working day and night to ensure a smooth ride for Obama wherever he goes during his two-day stay. All roads in South Mumbai are being closely monitored and potholes are being filled, so also the road that leads from the airport to South Mumbai.

The Taj Mahal Hotel itself has been booked for the Presidential party. All its 570 rooms as well as the hotel’s restaurants have been reserved for them to ensure watertight security, hotel sources said.

Rooms at other hotels, including the Oberoi-Trident, which had come under the attack during 26/11 siege, the Taj President at Cuffe Parade and the ITC Grand Hyatt, have been booked for the Presidential entourage.  On his arrival at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Obama will travel from there by road instead of a helicopter in a Lincoln Continental, which is being flown in specially from the U S. The exact timing of his arrival has been kept a secret for security reasons.

The President himself and the first lady Michelle will stay at the Taj Mahal. She has reportedly expressed desire to visit an NGO in Mumbai’s red light area Kamathipura on the second day, but it has led to a lot of security concerns as the area is densely populated.

The waterfront outside the Taj Mahal Hotel will be guarded by the Indian and US naval vessels.

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