Lucknow: With just a few days left for the Defence Expo to begin in Lucknow, the authorities are working at a breakneck speed to ensure that the much-awaited mega show scheduled from 5-9 February takes place without any hassle.
Lucknow, which is the constituency of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, will be hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several Union ministers, CEOs of defence companies, diplomats, among others, for the event.
Defence ministers and service chiefs of more than 135 countries have also been invited to the expo.
Posters of the event have come up across Lucknow and most of them carry the image of just PM Modi, who will inaugurate the expo, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Image of Rajnath Singh is missing from the posters. When asked about it, the expo organisers refused to comment.
The event will take place in Vrindavan Yojana, spread over an area of more than 200 acres.
Traditionally, the expo has always been held in Delhi, but this year it was an exception as Pragati Maidan, where it is always held, is being redecorated.
The first state to host the expo outside Delhi was Goa in 2016. Former defence minister Manohar Parrikar wanted it to be organised in his state.
The next Defence Expo was held when Nirmala Sitharaman was the defence minister in 2018, who also wanted it to be held in her home state — Tamil Nadu.
This year it was expected that the exhibition would be held in Lucknow.
Case in point being that a major foreign defence firm’s senior official was already in the city, asking about hotel room deals when the announcement was made last year that the event would take place in the Uttar Pradesh capital.
A top official of a defence company, who has been invited to the expo, voiced concerns over the issue of accommodation and whether Lucknow will, at all, be able to pull off the event.
“It is going to be crazy. There are not enough rooms available and I wonder whether Lucknow can actually handle such a big event,” he told ThePrint.
Price of hotel rooms exorbitantly high
Most big hotels in Lucknow have already been booked in advance for 5-7 February.
Currently, only a few rooms are available and that too at exorbitantly high prices as rates have shot up due to the event.
Rooms at Hotel Piccadilly near Lucknow airport are generally booked for Rs 6,000 to 7,000 per night on normal days. But the current rates are somewhere around Rs 68,000 per night if someone takes a booking for dates falling between 5-7 February.
The situation is no different at Hotel Hilton Garden where rooms with a normal fare of Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 per night are getting booked for Rs 40,000 per night.
Hotel Piccadilly’s reservation operator Astha Dubey told ThePrint that these exorbitant rates are due to the expo.
“Most of the hotels in the city are already booked and it will not be surprising if the rents cross Rs 1 lakh mark,” said Dubey, adding, the rates have already crossed Rs 1 lakh for suites at her hotel.
Dipiti Kapil, the marketing and communications manager of hotel Novotel, told ThePrint that guests from foreign countries are provided with amenities that are of global standards.
“Special care needs to be taken for providing these amenities, including cuisine. This is also one of the factors for the excessively high rates,” said Kapil, adding that all rooms at the hotel are already booked for 5 and 6 February.
The Lucknow administration, meanwhile, has put up ‘Super Deluxe’ and ‘Deluxe’ tents near the venue to accommodate the guests. These tents are priced at Rs 14,500 each plus GST, but it might increase over the next few days.
925 exhibitors to put up stalls
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said on 5 January that 925 exhibitors will put up their stalls in the expo. Of these, 775 are Indian firms and the rest 150 are foreign firms.
State-of-the-art weapon systems from across the globe will be showcased at the expo. A simulator, which is normally used to train the armed forces, will also be put on display.
The biggest numbers of foreign exhibitors are from Russia, France, the US, South Korea, Sweden and the Czech Republic. These countries will also set up their exclusive pavilions.
India is expected to sign MoUs with these countries at the expo.
To promote the event, road shows were organised in eight countries, including Russia, Portugal and France.
A mobile app of Defence Expo-2020 was also launched that has all the relevant information related to the expo.
On the first three days of the event, only invitees will be allowed. On 8 and 9 February, the expo will be open to the public.
Branding of defence corridor
Through this expo, an all-out effort is being made to promote the Adityanath government’s dream project of setting up a defence corridor from Aligarh to Lucknow.
The state government will set up three pavilions measuring over 12,000 square meters for this purpose.
The pavilions will provide all the information associated with the corridor. The state government wants to brand the project through the expo and attract investors for it.