AHMEDABAD – US President Donald Trump will inaugurate the world’s largest cricket stadium when he arrives in Ahmedabad, the home base of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Monday at the start of a two-day visit aimed at smoothing ties strained by trade disputes.
Making his first official trip to the world’s largest democracy, Trump is also expected to visit the humble abode of India’s independence hero Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad.
The leaders of China, Japan and Israel have all visited Ahmedabad since Modi became prime minister. It is the biggest city in Gujarat, the western state where Modi made his mark as chief minister before his Hindu nationalist party swept to power in 2014.
If his Indian hosts can help it, Trump probably won’t see a slum as they’ve ordered for a 400-metre wall to be built along his route to block the view of where poor people live.
Authorities in Ahmedabad expect to spend around 800 million to 850 million Indian rupees ($11-12 million) on preparations for the visit by the American president that is likely to last around three hours, two government officials with direct knowledge of the plans told Reuters.
The sum is equivalent to equivalent to about 1.5% of the annual budget for the home ministry in Gujarat.
Security-related costs, with more than 12,000 police officers expected to be deployed, will account for almost half the expense, said the officials, who declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak publicly about the visit.
Ahmedabad municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra, the city’s top civic official, told Reuters that authorities had already spent around 300 million rupees ($4.2 million) on widening roads and improving infrastructure around the new cricket stadium.
With capacity for 110,000 spectators, the Motera Stadium will dislodge the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
“Eighteen roads of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in length from Ahmedabad Airport to Motera Stadium have been widened or re-laid,” Nehra said, adding that the improvements had been planned before Trump’s visit was confirmed.
A further 60 million Indian rupees ($840,000) will go on “beautification” of the city, said Nehra, including erecting the wall to spare Trump’s view.
Ashok Brahmbhatt, secretary of Gujarat Cricket Association, which owns the Motera Stadium set to be opened by Trump, said it would also spend tens of millions of rupees during the event.
Nehra tweeted on Sunday that more than 100,000 participants had registered so far to greet Trump as he heads from the airport to the city centre. Trump said last week Modi had promised “millions and millions” of people would line his route.
Trump may also visit the famous Taj Mahal monument in the city of Agra, and all leave for police officers in that city has been canceled, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Ahead of Trump’s Visit to Gujarat, 45 Families in Slum Asked To Evacuate
At least 45 families living in a slum near the newly-built Motera stadium in Ahmedabad have been served eviction notices by the municipal corporation ahead of the scheduled visit of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24.
While officials have denied any connection with the proposed high-profile visit and issuance of notices, residents of the slum have questioned the timing of the move, which came days after the AMC began building a wall allegedly to cover a slum on a route that the US President is likely to take while visiting the city.
“You have encroached upon a plot of land belonging to the AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation). Evict the plot in another seven days with your household chattels, otherwise, departmental action will be taken to evict the land. If you have to make any representation, you can do so on February 19 at 3 pm,” reads the notice.
The slum is located alongside a road connecting Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, around one-and-a-half kms away from the Motera stadium.
A slum-dweller, Shailesh Bilwa, claimed on Tuesday that officials of the AMC have visited them several times since the last seven days.
“We have been living here since over a decade. We had never been served any eviction notice in the past. Why the notice was served to us now?” questioned Dinesh Adravani, a daily-wage labourer who said he had been asked to vacate his shanty by February 18.
He said slum-dwellers like him had no alternative shelter if they are forced out.
“We are ready to vacate, but we need alternative accommodation, otherwise we will be forced to live on pavements. We live here with our family members comprising women and children. We pray to the government to provide us with an alternative plot where we could live,” said another resident Shailesh Bilwa.
He claimed that officials of the AMC have been asking them to vacate the plot since the last seven days. “Some of them even threatened to use force against us,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, Deputy Estate Officer (West Zone), AMC, Chaitanya Shah said the eviction notice had nothing to do with the scheduled “Namaste Trump” programme.
“They (slum-dwellers) have been served the eviction notice under the provisions of the Town Planning Act and has nothing to do with Trump’s visit. The plot belongs to the AMC. The notice was served as the site survey conducted in January found that the plot had been encroached upon,” Shah said.
PM Modi and Trump are scheduled to address over one lakh people at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera on February 24, as part of the “Namaste Trump” event. Trump is scheduled to take part in a roadshow in Ahmedabad and to visit the Sabarmati Ashram on that day.