Unprecedented security, cleanliness to greet Hollande in Chandigarh

Chandigarh, Jan 19 (IANS) Chandigarh’s French connection at the highest level will see the city in the midst of unprecedented security cover and cleanliness – at least in the areas that French President Francois Hollande will visit – during his day trip to the city Sunday. He had expressed his desire to visit Chandigarh, the first post-independence planned city in the country that was designed by renowned French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Hollande, who will be the chief guest at the January 26 Republic Day Parade in New Delhi, will land straight in Chandigarh, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to receive him. Several areas in the city will remain out of bounds for local residents till the VVIP visit ends on Sunday evening.

He will visit Chandigarh’s ‘Capitol Complex’, Rock Garden, Sector 17 Plaza, the city’s commercial and business centre, Tagore Theatre and the Le Corbusier Centre in Sector 19, where the master-planner and his team worked and conceptualised the city.

The Chandigarh administration certainly wants the French president to see the city in rosy colours. That is, perhaps, the reason why all walls along the roads that the dignitary will be taking, have been painted in terracotta red colour. Even the walls of private houses, palatial bungalows, government and other buildings, which face the roads that Hollande’s entourage will take, have been given a fresh coat of terracotta.

All pavements along the route of the French president have been repaired, repaired and coloured. Roundabouts in the city too have been given a fresh look. Road markers too have got a fresh paint.

“We are sprucing up the city. Road berms and walls are being repaired and painted, garbage and debris are being picked up. We will present them a very beautiful city during the visit of the French president and Modi-ji,” Chandigarh mayor Arun Sood said here.

Rock Garden Creator Nek Chand’s family too is eagerly awaiting the French president’s visit to the facility.

“He will enter from the exit and see the last part of the Rock Garden. We will show him how Nek Chand used to make everything from waste,” Nek Chan’d son Anuj Saini said.

Teams of French security and foreign ministry office and the Indian ministry of external affairs (MEA) have already visited Chandigarh to work out details of the high-profile visit.

The French Ambassador to India had recently visited the city in preparation for the president’s visit. He met with senior officers of the Chandigarh Administration here.

Preparations are in full swing and security arrangements are being worked out for the visit. Police sources said that the French president will stay at the Taj Hotel in Sector 17 in the few hours that he will be in the city.

The Chandigarh Administration, which had been reprimanded by the union home ministry recently for going overboard on the security part and virtually locking in the entire city last September when Prime Minister Modi first visited the city after assuming office, is ensuring that nothing of that sort is repeated even though two VVIPs will be here on the same day.

The over-zealous administration had ordered shutting down of schools and sealed certain roads and parts of the city. Even the city’s cremation ground became out of bounds for city residents.

All these measures, which caused residents much harassment, drew considerable flak, forcing Modi to tweet and apologize and even order a probe into the matter.

Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier, whose real name was Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, led a team of European planners to design Chandigarh. The country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted the city to be a symbol of post-independence modern India.

Corbusier planned the city on the lines of a human body – the Capitol Complex was to be the head of the body, the commercial centre its heart, the industrial area its hand and the intellectual centre being the parkland.

The Capitol Complex was conceived by Corbusier himself. The main buildings here, the secretariat complex, the legislative assembly complex and the high court Complex, were completed during his time. The ‘Open Hand’ monument, the symbol of Chandigarh, is also in this complex.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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