Machine guns to aerial surveillance, tight security for Mohali Test

December 17th, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Mohali (Punjab), Dec 17 (IANS) Light-machine guns (LMGs), aerial surveillance, gun-toting commandos, road check-points, a safe house and an emergency exit plan in place. The description is not that of a war zone but of the venue of the second cricket Test between India and England to be played at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium here from Friday.The Dec 19-23 Mohali Test match would be held under the tightest-ever security for a sporting event in the country, senior Punjab police officials said here.

Hundreds of commandos, quick reaction teams and armed policemen have already taken positions in and around the PCA stadium in Mohali and the Taj Hotel in Chandigarh’s commercial hub of Sector 17, about 10 km from here, to protect both teams.

The security arrangements are in a completely different league, compared to the last Test played here, between India and Australia in October.

Both teams arrived Tuesday at the Taj Hotel in Chandigarh on a chartered flight from Chennai, where India won the first Test. Four Indian players, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra will join the team later Wednesday.

“The teams will practise at the PCA stadium Wednesday and Thursday,” PCA secretary G.S. Walia said here.

The Chandigarh police and the Punjab police have drawn up elaborate plans for team movement and their security. No vehicles will be allowed on the roads 10 minutes prior to the movement by either team to reach the stadium from the hotel or while returning.

The team buses will be accompanied by scores of armed policemen and several pilot and escort vehicles. The police vehicles will also have LMGs.

“The roads around the hotel have been blocked completely. Floodlights have been installed all around the hotel,” Chandigarh’s Assistant Superintendent of Police Madhur Verma said.

Nobody else is being allowed to park inside the hotel, which is swarming with nearly 300 commandos and armed policemen. Others staying at the hotel have been given special passes so that they can get back. No one else has been allowed to book a room on the floors where the teams are staying. No player would be allowed to move out of the hotel or the stadium alone.

Near the PCA stadium, the police are checking antecedents of all residents. Till Dec 24, the residents are likely to feel they live in a very high security zone indeed.

“Every match is anyway a nuisance for us. We cannot even take the usual roads to reach our homes. This match is going to be a security nightmare for us,” said Avtar Kaur, who lives near the stadium.

“Security, of course, will be tightest ever. We have forwarded security instructions for the players to PCA officials. Every player will have to adhere to that,” Mohali police chief Jatinder Singh Aulakh said.

The police have even made and rehearsed an evacuation plan in case of an emergency. A building near the stadium has been earmarked as a safe house in such a situation to ensure players’ safety.

From Monday, the stadium and the hotel have been kept under tight surveillance day and night.

PCA officials are now trying to ensure some spectators do brave the security cordons and show up to watch the players in action. Since the match was allotted to Mohali only at the last moment, tickets are being offered to schools in Chandigarh, Panchkula, Mohali and nearby areas.

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