| FOOD FROM HOME'
Hyderabad, Feb. 22: Hyderabadi biryani may be fit for a king, but not the American President’s men.
George W. Bush will touch down in the city for four hours on March 3, and the advance parties have already begun arriving, kitchen, laundry and all.
Since yesterday, 80 men and five helicopters ' to ferry Bush and wife around Hyderabad ' have landed in the city. So has a US air force plane with two containers of special communication and surveillance equipment.
Members of the Presidential Food Service have brought along their own frozen chicken from the US, besides vegetables, marmalade, sauces, cooking fat, cheese, salt and sugar, and are getting ready to set up shop at the Grand Kakatiya, where the Americans have booked 140 of the 185 rooms.
“They have even brought water purifiers and their own laundry machines as the security and communication teams have to spend over four days in the city,” police said.
A recce team of American officials that visited Hyderabad in the first week of February had checked out the local supply of meat and vegetables and found it unfit for VIP consumption.
“It is not that they had suspected bird flu weeks ago but the local products did not meet their standards,” said an official who had accompanied the team to five-star hotels.
A senior official in the ministry of external affairs insisted this was “not unusual as the President’s team always comes with a full-fledged kitchen, including linen and cutlery”.
“The second team of Americans landing here on Friday will include barbers, doctors and paramedics also,” the official added.
But the special kitchen to be set up with chefs from Delhi and New York will be functional only by Friday. Till then, the Americans who are already here are making do with hamburgers, pizza and the like. They have taken to lassi though.
In all, about 300 Americans are expected to be in the city by the times Bush arrives with wife Laura.
The state government has set up a special task force of two cabinet ministers, top bureaucrats and police officials for the visit. But it dropped plans to springclean the city once it found the President would give the roads and any possible protesters a miss, opting to use the helicopter instead.
Five helicopters flown in by the US Marines are being moved to a special hangar at Begumpet airport where they will stay for the next seven days, city police commissioner A.K. Mohanty said.
Bush is expected to use them to travel to Acharya N.G. Ranga University and the Indian School of Business, while Laura will take one when she visits a women’s college at the heart of the city’s commercial district and possibly the exhibition of the Nizam’s jewels. Their itinerary has been kept under wraps, for fear of protesters from the Left as well as Muslim organisations.
The decision to use helicopters spared the government the need to barricade critical road junctions and clean up some of the congested areas, as planned earlier, but the beggars will be swept out before Bush steps in. State DGP Swaranjit Sen said: “To begin with, we will remove all the 3000-odd beggars away from the city for a day or two. We also aim to sterilise certain areas by arresting troublemakers among Left and Muslim activists.”
“Instead, we plan to set up platforms with cheerleaders (young girls and boys) at several junctions in the city to welcome the US President,” a government spokesman said.