The iconic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai will be off limits not only for outsiders, but also for most of the hotel’s employees during US President Barack Obama’s visit. Operations at the hotel will virtually be taken over by White House staff for two days beginning November 6.
Just 10 per cent of Taj’s 1,400 permanent staff will be at hand for the guests, comprising the US first family and the rest of the delegation. The hotel will not accept any other guests. The staff will not be allowed to leave the hotel or use their mobile phones as long as Obama is in Mumbai.
The list of employees on duty has already been sent to the White House for vetting. Others have been told to go on paid leave, said a senior protocol officer helping to plan the Obama visit. The US administration has already booked the hotel’s entire 572 rooms.
Sources familiar with the developments said all movement within the hotel will be monitored by White House security staff, 25 of whom have been camping at the Taj. In all, 1,600 White House personnel, including intelligence, counter-intelligence and other security personnel, will be accompanying the US president.
The entire precinct around the hotel will become a virtual fortress and an impregnable security net is being cast along the Mumbai coastline. The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and US Navy will jointly keep a close vigil on the Arabian Sea. Steps are being taken to ensure that no unauthorised fishing boats, trawlers, private yachts or other vessels stray anywhere close to the shore opposite the Gateway of India.
The Mumbai police have also started conducting checks on every lodge and guesthouse in and around the area and will screen every foreign national staying there.
The protocol officer said the Indo-US business summit, which will be addressed by Obama, will take place in Hotel Trident’s plush Regal Room at Nariman Point. Only 400 hand-picked delegates have been invited for the summit and entry for them will be barred after 3.30 pm on November 6. President Obama is scheduled to address the gathering at 5 pm.