As you enter the small temple town of Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram) on the coast of Tamil Nadu, one notices a palpable change in the air.
For the next few weeks, Mamallapuram will no longer be the sleepy surfer town loved by tourists and history buffs, but the centre of the world's attention as the leaders of two of the global emerging powers – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping – are set to hold talks here next month.
TNM visited the temple town on Thursday to find that that many security measures and civic work are in progress in, and even in the outskirts of Mammallpuram, ahead of the crucial meet scheduled between October 11 and October 13.
500 police personnel deployed
Security has been intensified in the 20-kilometre stretch between Mamallapuram town and Akkarai.
Speaking to TNM, a top source in charge of security in the area said that ahead of the summit, two Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), six inspectors, and 500 police personnel have been deployed across Mamallapuram in different shifts, including night patrolling.
CCTV cameras have been installed across the town as well as on the outskirts for round-the-clock surveillance.
"We have strengthened security but we do not want to disturb activities in the town. There will be no harassment or restrictions from our side as we do not want tourism to suffer. However, we will do routine checks to ensure that nobody stays back without valid documents. In the coming weeks, security will be further intensified," the source added.
Resorts and homestays in Mamallapuram too have been advised to inform the police if foreigners check-in during the coming weeks. "They (tourists) can stay if they have the valid documents including passport, visa details, vehicle license, RC book etc.," the source added.
However, a local source said that hotels and homestays have been advised against entertaining visitors on the summit dates.
As for the 18,000 residents of Mamallapuram town panchayat, police officers inspected the town areas and reviewed Aadhar cards and personal information last week.
"They took our phone numbers and Aadhar card details. The officers also visited our houses and workplaces and took details about how many family members stay, if we have visitors staying and how many employees are there in our workplace etc.," a tailor on Othavadai street told TNM.
Police teams have been deployed for baggage screening near the UNESCO World heritage monuments in Mamallapuram as well.
"Apart from regular vehicle checks, anti-sabotage teams have also been surveying the area and checking vehicles at random. You will also see armed guards stationed near the monuments. However, tourists are being allowed between 6 am and 6 pm, and there are no restrictions to visiting any monuments," an official in charge of security near the monuments told TNM.
PM Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are expected to visit three of the monuments - Shore temple, Arjuna's penance and 5 Rathas during their two day visit.
The stone pavements leading up to the monument are also being strengthened and new fences surrounding the compound are being erected ahead of the summit. Single use plastics have been banned near the UNESCO monuments.
To facilitate drinking water, reverse osmosis (RO) plants will also be set up in different points of the town by the Panchayat.
Road repair work is in full swing in the major streets of Mamallapuram as well, including the E Raja street, W Raja street, S Mada street, TKM Road, Five Rathas road. Roads and pavements are also being re-laid near the Shore temple. Garbage collection and disposal has also been increased by the panchayat.
"We are removing barricades and banners, clearing obstructions such as debris from the streets in these areas," a police source said.
According to N Latha, the Executive Officer of the Mamallapuram Special Grade Town Panchayat, at least 500 roadside shops have been evicted in the past weeks, which has left the shopkeepers unhappy.
Speaking to TNM, a road side shop owner who was evicted from beach said, "The Panchayat officers have banned us from setting up our shops even after the summit is over. This is a blow to our livelihood and they have not given us an alternative location to set up our shops. We will protest if the ban is permanent."