Obama visit: Huge security drill, Coconuts removed at a Mumbai venue

Extraordinary steps like getting coconuts removed from trees at one venue were taken by authorities in Mumbai, as unprecedented security measures were put in place ahead of US President Barack Obama`s visit starting Saturday.

Updated: Nov 03, 2010, 20:03 PM IST

Mumbai/New Delhi: Extraordinary steps like
getting coconuts removed from trees at one venue were taken by
authorities in Mumbai, as unprecedented security measures were
put in place ahead of US President Barack Obama`s visit
starting Saturday.

An elaborate security drill involving US secret service
agents, personnel from different Indian intelligence agencies
and NSG commandos was planned for tomorrow in Mumbai which
will be the first port of call for Obama.
Besides Mumbai Police, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force
personnel, US Air Traffic Control personnel will also hone
their skills.

A similar exercise will also be carried out in Delhi on
Friday to fine tune security arrangements in the national
capital during Obama`s visit on the second leg of his India
trip.

In Mumbai, authorities at Mani Bhavan did not want to
take the risk of seeing coconuts fall on the head of the
American president and asked the local civic body to cut down
branches and coconuts from the trees around the museum.
Mahatma Gandhi, whom Obama greatly admires, used to stay at
the Bhavan during his visits to the city,

"We requested the ward officer to remove the branches
as they kept falling and coconuts had become dry. We thought
it would be better to get them removed," Mani Bhavan Executive
Secretary, Meghshyam Ajgaonkar told PTI, apparently not
wanting to take a chance when Obama comes calling.
Following the request, civic workers from the
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) yesterday swung into
action and removed them. Mani Bhavan is among the five places
where Obama will be visiting during his stay in Mumbai. Taj
and Trident Hotels, St Xavier`s College and Holy Name School
are the other places.

Obama is also likely to use a helicopter to travel
between Mumbai`s Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport and
the city during his visit to the metropolis.

Sources said as the airport is located at a distance,
security agencies would not like to take any chance and were
advising the use of a chopper by Obama for travel between
the airport and the city.

A helipad located in South Mumbai is also getting
renovated and being sanitised for the use of the US President.

All high rise buildings in the vicinity of Mumbai`s Taj
Mahal hotel, Delhi`s Maurya Sheraton hotel, where the US
President stay, will be sanitised and security personnel will
guard them from rooftop to prevent any air borne attack.

The Mumbai coastline will be guarded by Indian Navy
personnel while IAF fighter jets and helicopters will hover in
the skies over both the cities.

The ridge area -- opposite Delhi`s Maurya Sheraton
hotel --has been illuminated by floodlights as part of the
heightened security drill, officials said.

The Home Ministry has already issued an alert for
Mumbai and Delhi asking authorities to take extra precautions
during Obama`s visit as well on Diwali on Friday.

As part of its security measures, a team of Force One,
the special terror counter unit formed on the lines of
National Security GuardS(NSG), has inspected the venues
that are on the itinerary of Obama in Mumbai.

A team of senior officials of the Force One has
visited Taj Mahal, Trident, Taj President and Grand Hyatt
hotels where the rooms were booked by the US officials for
their stay, a senior police official told PTI.

The premises of St. Xavier`s College, Mani Bhavan and
Holy Name school and University of Mumbai, where the US
President would visit, were also inspected by the team, the
official added.

"The purpose of their inspection was to get a
first-hand knowledge about the premises and its vicinity. The
topographies of these places were studied. Details such as
entry and exit points, buildings adjacent to the venues etc
were among the various things that were noted and studied by
the team," the official said.

The Force One would be part of the security apparatus
that would maintain hawk`s vigil visit. Police have also
issued notices to boat operators asking them not to ferry
vessels from the Gateway of India for three days
beginning November 5.

All roads close to the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, where
Obama will be staying during his visit, will remain closed for
public for two days.

The Mumbai Fire Department has also scrutinised the
fire fighting systems at all the venueswhere the President is
scheduled to visit.

"We have conducted checks at Hotels Taj and Trident,
Mani Bhavan, St Xavier`s College, Holy Name School," Deputy
Chief Fire Officer (Colaba) S V Joshi, told PTI.

The schools and colleges have been asked to top up
their empty fire fire extinguishers and keep more fire
extinguishers on stand-by, he said.

"We will be deploying fire engines, ambulances on
Saturday morning at each of these locations so that in case of
any mishap we can immediately press into service," Joshi said
adding also, as roads will be cordoned off and there will be
less traffic, the response time will not be more than two
minutes.

Last week, few officials from the US security team met
senior fire officers for discussions on the equipments and
mechanisms the fire department have in place.

PTI