Amitava Banerjee, HT, 9 Jul 2016, DARJEELING: President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Darjeeling could run into rough weather. With incessant rainfall continuing in the Queen of the Hills, the district administration and other government agencies have readied a backup plan in case the President cannot fly to Darjeeling from Bagdogra by helicopter owing to the inclement weather.

In that case the President will be travelling to the Queen of the Hills on road. However, he will have to forgo the official state car and instead settle for a state government vehicle.
President Pranab Mukherjee is slated to arrive at the Bagdogra airport near Silliguri on July 12 and fly by helicopter to the Lebong helipad in Darjeeling. However, inclement weather could result in the cancellation of the helicopter flight. Heavy rain and fog result in low visibility and landing specially becomes very difficult and risky in mountainous terrain. “We have a backup plan ready in case of such eventuality. The President will then be proceeding to Darjeeling on road. Arrangements for the bulletproof vehicles have already been made. They have already arrived,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Shrivastava.
Interestingly the official state car in which the President travels is a black Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman Guard. It is custom built and heavily armoured. The President’s cavalcade usually consists of the official state car, a backup car which is also a Mercedes-Benz, a white Mercedes- Benz ambulance and Tata Safari SUV.
However, owing to the heavy armour plates and glass the official state car could have problems negotiating the steep gradients feel experts. In case the President has to travel by road, he will be provided with bullet proof SUVs from the state government’s fleet from Kolkata.
These armoured bulletproof SUVs are supposed to survive AK47 fire from a distance of 10m and even grenade bursts under the vehicles. The SUVs can negotiate hilly terrain.
“Though there is no heavy shower warning in Sikkim and adjoining areas. The forecast for Tuesday is cloudy skies with moderate rainfall,” said Gopi Nath Raha, director, Meteorological Centre, Gangtok.v
Arrangements are on in full swing for the President’s visit. The President accompanied by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathy will be arriving on 12 and departing on July 15. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be arriving on July 11 and departing on July 15. She will be present at the Lebong helipad, to welcome the President on July 12. “All security arrangement has been made. The President is a Blue Book (security guidelines for VIPs and VVIPs) protectee and arrangements have been made accordingly,” added Darjeeling SP Amit P Javalgi.
Security agencies have arrived to the security arrangement. Route lining, surprise checks in entry and exit points to the town along with hotels are being conducted.