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More vehicles than shoppers, broken bollards, civic woes: Here’s what’s ailing Chandni Chowk’s pedestrianised stretch | Delhi News

Shoppers jostling for space with e-rickshaws, two-wheelers and even cars, garbage overflowing from dustbins, damaged street furniture: Just two years into its inauguration, the much-touted pedestrianised stretch at Chandni Chowk appears to be losing its sheen.

The issues plaguing the area further came into focus after a visit by L-G VK Saxena last week. In a post on X, accompanied by photos, he had said: “Decrepit basic civic services, lacking sanitation, deplorable upkeep due to neglect over years and absence of essential coordination between departments/agencies working in silos, has defeated the very purpose of pedestrianisation of the main thoroughfare.” The AAP-Delhi government blamed the Centre, saying ever since the GNCTD Act was passed, it has no power to act against any officer.

The Indian Express visited the 1.3-km-long stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid to check out the pain points.

Vehicle movement: According to the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), which undertook the revamp along with the Public Works Department (PWD), the project’s primary aim was to “take remedial measures to decongest the current mixed traffic congestion”. After the redevelopment, the stretch was declared a “no-traffic zone” for motorised vehicles between 9 am and 9 pm, and only 400 non-motorised colour-coded rickshaws (in red) were allowed to ply. Any other motorised vehicle plying on the stretch would be fined Rs 20,000.

Cut to today and the street is chock-a-block with more than the designated number of rickshaws. “Over a thousand e-rickshaws ply on stretch and there’s hardly any space for visitors to walk… the Delhi Police is not able to ensure rickshaw pullers functioning illegally are removed,” alleged Sanjay Bhargava, head of the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal.

Festive offer

Deepak Jain, general secretary, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, chimed in: “This is hindering shoppers and the overall aesthetic.”

Delhi Police, on its part, said: “The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had issued the rickshaw licence, so we cannot act till it increases vigilance and gives us a list of rickshaws that are legally and illegally functioning.”

MCD officials, however, said enforcement is not their role: “It’s difficult to ascertain which rickshaw is legal and which isn’t as there are so many now, and they have impersonated legal rickshaw pullers when it comes to colour (red), design, and even fake number plates.”

Moreover, those who can legally ply complained that the excess of rickshaws has cut into their earnings. “We paid Rs 500 for a licence and customised our rickshaws according to a colour-code. After redevelopment, our earnings were initially good but now with so many rickshaw pullers in the zone, it has suffered,” Shanu Kumar, a rickshaw puller in the area, said.

Further, 22 boom barriers were installed by the PWD at 19 designated places to restrict vehicular movement, but traders alleged these are unmanned.
Street furniture: As part of the revamp, sandstone bollards and medieval-themed street furniture were placed on the central verge to allow shoppers a spot to rest. A majority of it has now been taken over by hawkers and encroachers. Further, numerous bollards are broken, their remnants strewn across the pavement.

The central verge was additionally embellished with trees, bushes, and planters shielded by rust-colored grilles; the greenery has since withered away and the grilles are damaged.

“We traders feel hopeless and helpless as no government stakeholder is ready to listen to our plight. The green belt in the middle has been damaged, vagabonds have taken over the place, and the whole area is covered in beetle juice spit,” said Anil Mahendru, owner of Harichand Jewellers.

Ajay Kumar Mittal, owner of Murarilal Manav Kumar, a 53-year-old Lucknow Chikankari business in the market, laid the blame on civic agencies. “Those involved in the revamp are not working on maintaining the area either due to a lack of coordination or funds. Gardening is not being done by the PWD due to which the situation is worse than it was before redevelopment. All the beautiful spaces that had been created are being littered… this is not the type of experience we want people who visit the market to have.”

While the revamp plans had called for uniformity in colour and signages for stores that line the boulevard as well as facade illumination, there has been no progress on this front.

The corridors were also blocked with streetside vendors and parked two-wheelers.

But for Yousuf Ali, who runs a chaat stall in the area, vending is his livelihood: “My father and grandfather were running stalls in the market before I took over. When the redevelopment took place, we were told street vendors would no longer be allowed to work here. We were worried because just like me, many other vendors have also been selling on this stretch for generations.”

Sanitation: Garbage was piled up in many places despite dustbins in place. Before Diwali, the stretch faced a sanitation crisis after contractors hired by the PWD suspended services due to non-payment of dues.

Sources in the sanitation service provider’s firm said the PWD made a verbal agreement with contractors to work till December 10, but a tender is yet to be floated and the contract has not been renewed. “Contractors returned to work… but they are not deploying their workforce in full capacity which is compromising sanitation,” Bhargava stated.

Moreover, there is no parking space in the area as a comprehensive parking management system is yet to be implemented. While the MCD is building a six-storey building with space for over 2,300 cars, the project has missed multiple deadlines.

When asked for a response, a senior MCD official said, “Operations at the Gandhi Maidan multi-level parking will start soon once the space gets approval from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (as increased vehicular traffic had led to pollution-related concerns in the area). Once it is operational, it will bring huge relief to visitors.”

A solution?

It was on September 12, 2021, that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inaugurated the redesigned and pedestrianised marketplace, bringing about a significant change to the neighbourhood — making it shopper-friendly, easier to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing.

SRDC and the PWD implemented the work in two stages. As part of Phase 1 which began in December 2018, pathways were widened, infrastructure was upgraded, and cars were banned during certain hours.

Under Phase 2, the facade of the heritage buildings was to be refurbished with historical and architectural elements. This has been completed partially.

“We have received directions from the L-G. Work has been assigned to officers concerned posted in the division, including a secretary-level officer who will ensure coordination. The PWD will take up work to clean the central verge, and damaged bollards and stones will also be repaired. Work will start soon,” said a senior PWD official.

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