Modi-Xi Summit: Business Hit Yet Mahabalipuram Happy With Makeover
Preparations are in full swing to make Mahabalipuram secure and squeaky clean ahead of the Modi-Xi informal summit.
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Cameraperson & Reporter: Smitha TK
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram will soon be the centre of the world’s attention as the leaders of two of the global emerging powers – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – are set to hold talks here, between 11-13 October.
Preparations are in full swing to make the town secure and squeaky clean.
The Quint visited the temple town to find out if local businesses have been affected and how the ban on fishing and surfing has affected the locals.
About a 100 CCTV cameras have been installed near the monuments alone. Over 600 police officers will be deployed in and around the town during the duration of the summit.
Cameras have also been installed along the East Coast Road stretch till Kovalam and Mahabalipuram. Pavements have been relaid, solar powered flood lights have been installed and flickering street lights have been fixed.
Can’t Surf, Swim, Fish or Paddle
Usually, the town is buzzing with tourists at this time of the year but, when we visited, there were hardly any around. Several shops had pulled down their shutters and the few which were open hardly had any customers.
Locals said a ban has been issued on fishing and surfing from 5 October, which they believe will make a huge dent in their earnings.
“He (Modi) should know that, right? We need to borrow money to manage and will only be able to repay once we are able to go fishing,” said Murali, a fisherman.
The locals have also requested the government to pay them compensation or provide them food during the days of the ban.
Since many shops have been shut, a few villagers have volunteered to paint, relay the roads and engage in other beautification works undertaken by the district administration.
Police officials have visited the homes of the nearly 18,000 residents of Mamallapuram town panchayat, to review their Aadhar cards and personal information.
Hotels and homestays have been advised not to entertain guests during the days of the summit and also to provide a list for foreign nationals who will be staying in the premises until the end of the summit.
Surf schools and fishermen in Kovalam have been barred from accessing the waterfront from the end of September as it is close to Taj Fisherman’s Cove – where the dignitaries will be staying.
“We were not provided any intimation and now we have had to close our business for over a month, which is a huge loss. The police have restricted access and we had to return all the money we had received as fees for several coaching classes,” said the manager of a popular surf school.
Grass Cut to Perfection, a Swanky Makeover
Grass mowed to precision, flickering street lights replaced, solar-powered flood lights installed, street hawkers removed – the temple town is now cleaner and greener than ever.
PM Modi and Chinese Premier Xi are expected to visit three of the local monuments – Shore temple, Arjuna's Penance and Five Rathas – during their two-day visit.
Stone pavements leading up to the monuments are being strengthened, new fences surrounding the compounds are being erected. Single-use plastics have also been banned near the UNESCO monuments.
Many locals, meanwhile, said that they are proud to see their small temple town get international recognition.
“There are people working through the night and they are planting trees, fixing roads. Our town is becoming beautiful, like a garden... it feels like Delhi,” said Karpagam, a shopkeeper.
The second informal summit between the two leaders could help plan the next stage of the India-China boundary dispute resolution, measures to export more Indian products to China to reduce the trade deficit, counter-terror measures, US-China trade war and review the progress since the Wuhan Summit.
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