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Trump’s 6.4 tonne ‘Beast’ makes Agra admin jittery

February 20, 2020 06:39 AM

COURTESY HT FEB 20

Trump’s 6.4 tonne ‘Beast’ makes Agra admin jittery

Local officials are evaluating whether US president’s armoured limousine can cross a particular bridge in Agra on way to the Taj. The bridge has been unsuitable for heavy vehicles. HT photo
Hemendra Chaturvedi

hemendra.chaturvedi@htlive.com

AGRA : The district administration is pulling out all the stops to give a facelift to Agra ahead of US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s visit here, but local officials are worried about the president’s car, nick-named The Beast, which has already arrived in Agra’s Kheria airport, and is waiting to ferry the couple to the Taj Mahal and back.

Their worry arises from two factors: one, will the car be allowed to drive up to the Taj Mahal, as the President’s security detail, the US Secret Service wants it to? After all, a Supreme Court order of 1998 bars the use of anything but electric vehicles in close proximity to the 16th century monument.

Two, will the car, which is expected to be part of a convoy that is at least several dozen cars, and which weighs 6.4 tonnes, be able to traverse a railway overbridge which is around a kilometre from the airport and meant only for light vehicles?

President Trump and the First Lady are scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal on February 24.

There is no clarity on the first issue yet. Officials in Agra are tight-lipped over details regarding the vehicle to be used by the visitors but superintending archaeologist (Agra circle), Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Swarankar, maintained that the SC guidelines will be complied with. “The issue about the vehicle in which the VVIPs enter the Taj premises is something to be looked at by the Agra administration,” he said, distancing himself from the issue.

Meanwhile, the Agra Development Authority has prepared a well-furnished, battery-operated, bus which can be used in an exigency. However, there is no confirmation on its deployment on February 24.

However, a former government official said that this issue will likely be sorted out. He cited the then US President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Taj, which was cancelled at the eleventh hour because he had to fly to Saudi Arabia to express condolences on the death of King Abdullah in January 2015.

“The restriction on his vehicle, Beast, from entering the Taj forecourt was not the primary reason. The issue was raised, but we could have sorted it out...,” said a retired official who was in service in Agra in 2015.

As for the second, local officials are hoping it is just a scare.

The Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department has declared a railway over bridge , a kilometre from the airport, unfit for heavy vehicles. The bridge, which passes over a track of Agra Cantt railway station, is maintained by the PWD and Indian Railways, and has a board that states “not fit for heavy vehicles”.

“This notice was placed about eight months ago when it was found that the over bridge was not fit for heavy vehicles. We have informed the Agra administration about this and the final decision on the route selection rests with them. On our part, we have initiated the process for repairing the bridge, for which sanction has been sought. Work will start after the sanction,” said Yogesh Pawar, superintending engineer, PWD.

Commissioner (Agra Division), Anil Kumar, said, “Details about route to be taken, including this bridge, have been given to the Advance teams. But experts from US have not raise

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