Hundreds of Indian slum residents evicted from stadium route ahead of Trump’s first visit

Narendra Modi’s home state spending 1.5% of annual budget on three-hour Trump visit, including ‘beautification’ projects  

Adam Withnall
Delhi
@adamwithnall
Tuesday 18 February 2020 13:49
comments
A worker paints a footpath in front of Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium, where Donald Trump is expected to visit during his upcoming trip to India, in Ahmedabad
A worker paints a footpath in front of Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium, where Donald Trump is expected to visit during his upcoming trip to India, in Ahmedabad

A local authority in India has served eviction notices to around 200 residents of slums that are on the route Donald Trump will pass from the airport to the world’s largest cricket stadium when he visits Ahmedabad city next week.

The US president says India’s prime minister has promised him “millions and millions” will turn out to line the streets on his first visit to the country.

Before trade talks in Delhi, the trip will start with Mr Trump inaugurating a new 110,000-capacity stadium in Ahmedabad, and a major project of “beautification” is under way in the city, the capital of Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Officials have confirmed that a 400 metre-long wall is being constructed along the expected route Mr Trump will take, obscuring slums from view, saying it is a necessary measure for “security”.

They have denied that other measures, including the widening of streets up to the new stadium and the slum eviction notices, are connected to Mr Trump’s visit.

But speaking on Tuesday, residents - some who said they had been living in the Saraniyavas slum for 22 years - said they were told otherwise.

“Officials who came to serve the notices asked us to vacate as soon as possible,” 35-year-old Teja Meda told the Indian Express. “They told us that the head of the US is visiting Motera stadium and they wanted us to move out.”

The timing of the notices is telling. Slum residents said they had been dated 11 February - the day Mr Trump’s visit was confirmed. They were handed out on Monday, and residents were told they had seven days to vacate - in other words, up until the day of Mr Trump’s arrival.

Residents said no arrangements have been made to provide them with somewhere else to live. “Go wherever you want to, is what the officials said when we asked them about our fate,” said Pankaj Damor, 24. “Every family has at least four members. Where will we all shift [to] in such a short [space of time]?”

Kishore Varna, the municipal official whose signed off the eviction notices, admitted to local media that the slum was on Mr Trump’s likely route, but said the decision “has nothing to do with the US president’s event”. “These slum-dwellers had encroached upon a land under one of the town planning schemes and hence were served notices,” he said.

Some 1.5 million people live in slums across Ahmedabad. Yet according to figures reported by Reuters on Tuesday, the city is spending around £9m - the equivalent of about 1.5 per cent of the annual budget for the entire state’s home ministry - on preparations for Mr Trump’s visit.

The president is expected to spend about three hours in the city, with security expected to be extremely tight throughout the day. With more than 12,000 police officers expected to be deployed, security-related costs are estimated to account for about half the total expenditure.

Ashok Brahmbhatt, secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association which owns the Motera Stadium set to be opened by Trump, said it would also spend tens of millions of rupees (hundreds of thousands of pounds) during the event.

Speaking to Reuters, Ahmedabad’s municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra said a total of about 12 miles of road between the airport and the stadium had been improved ahead of the “Namaste Trump” event.

He tweeted on Sunday that more than 100,000 participants had registered so far to greet Mr Trump as he heads from the airport to the city centre, suggesting there is some way to go before the promised “millions” are confirmed.

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