By Mohit Dubey
If you thought a public expression of regret by none other than the prime minister and a probe ordered by him into excessive security arrangements for his Chandigarh visit on September 11 has made any difference, think again!
While normal life in Chandigarh was thrown out of gear during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's day-long visit last week, the scene was nearly repeated by security agencies and the district administration on Friday as Modi flew into this temple town, also his parliamentary constituency.
This despite the fact that Modi used micro-blogging site Twitter to express his unhappiness over the security arrangements in Chandigarh, when schools were forced to close down and even the main cremation ground made out of bounds for the general public.
In Varanasi too, many schools were closed, exams postponed and even trains briefly brought to a halt as Narendra Modi went on an inauguration spree. According to information available, the prime minister's security detail - the Special Protection Group, intelligence officials and police officers - ordered the stopping of all train traffic on Andhera Pul track, from under which the VVIP cavalcade was to pass.
Hundreds of passengers on the busy rail route were thus left stranded in their trains for 30-40 minutes. While Modi was to attend a string of events at the Dereka ground, DLW guest house and the army campus, almost all major schools in the town were shut owing to the "VVIP movement", said an informed source.
St. Johns School principal Father Thomas said an exam slated to be held on Friday was postponed to September 24 in Mandhauli and Dereka branches owing to the prime ministerial visit.
Though District Magistrate Rajmani Yadav clarified they had issued no orders to close schools, more than a dozen schools, including all branches of Dalims group, DPS Babatpur, St. Mary's (Sona Talaab), St. Mary's (Cantonment) and three branches of Sun Beam Academy were closed for the day.
Most of the VVIP route in the town was also made out of bounds for the common man, with many forced to travel on foot for several kilometres.
The Varanasi district magistrate, however, said efforts were made to ensure that people were put to minimal inconvenience due to the high-profile visit, adding that people caught in traffic jams, specially ambulances and school buses, could dial 100 for immediate help.
Modi was on a Varanasi visit after nine months, with his two earlier visits cancelled due to rains or other reasons.
Town residents, while welcoming Modi, said his security was too much to grin and bear.
"There is a big problem when he comes; Kashi has narrow roads and the traffic is typically messy. Such VVIP visits only aggravate our troubles further," a livid Gopal Mishra, running a non-governmental organisation at Laurabeer, told IANS.