Chandigarh: Chandigarh residents on Friday got their first taste of likely snarls as the city witnessed a full dress rehearsal for the visit of French President Francois Hollande here on Sunday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also arrive in the city on the same day and meet the French president at city’s famous landmark – the Rock Garden.
The French president, who is the first head of state to visit Chandigarh, is coming to India to be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade at New Delhi’s Rajpath on January 26.
“Modi and Hollande will meet at the Rock Garden around 2.30 p.m. The French president will begin his trip from Chandigarh. This will be a historic visit,” advisor to the union territory (UT) administrator Vijay Kumar Dev told the media here.
The two will meet at the Rock Garden, created by Nek Chand from waste material, and will spend about 15 minutes there. Both the leaders will then go to the Capitol Complex nearby, which was designed by Chandigarh’s founder-architect, Frenchman Le Corbusier, in the 1950s.
Hollande and Modi will then proceed to the Government Museum and Art Gallery complex in Sector 10 here to see Corbusier’s vision for the city and rare artefacts.
Later, they will join CEOs from France and India at a business summit to be held at Hotel Taj in Sector 17 here. At least 25 business heads from both the countries will attend the summit here.
Tight security arrangements are being put into place with the two VVIPs arriving in the city at the same time. The intelligence agencies recently warned of the possibility of a ‘lone wolf’ attack by terror outfit IS (Islamic State) during the visit of the French president to India.
A full dress rehearsal of security arrangement and VVIP’s movement was held by security agencies, including the prime minister’s Special Protection Group (SPG), here.
The traffic police put up barricades along the route that the French president and Modi will be taking from the Indian Air Force station here to the Taj hotel and other locations. The rehearsal led to minor traffic jams and chaos on the roads.
President Hollande will see a spruced-up city, with the Chandigarh administration going into an overdrive since the past 10 days to present the city’s best.
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 the colour.
All pavements along the route of the French president have been repaired, replaced and coloured. Roundabouts in the city, too, have been given a fresh look. Road markers too have got a fresh paint.
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 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 several roads and parts of the city. Even the city’s cremation ground became out of bounds for the residents.
All these measures, which caused harassment to residents, drew considerable flak, forcing Modi to tweet and apologise 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.