14 years on, Chandni Chowk still waits for revamp

January 23, 2017 12:18 am | Updated 12:18 am IST - New Delhi:

Barely four kilometres from Connaught Place is Chandni Chowk, Delhi’s oldest and perhaps busiest market, which has been waiting for the past 14 years to be made into a pedestrian friendly and vehicle-free zone.

Despite several High Court orders, a redevelopment plan and de-congestion drives, Chandni Chowk remains a nightmare for commuters.

“The biggest problem is the multiplicity of authorities,” said Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, a traders’ body.

The idea to make Chandni Chowk a vehicle-free zone was first floated in a redevelopment plan conceived in 2003-4 by the then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Subsequently, the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Plan was approved in 2007.

As per the plan, motorised vehicles would be banned from the area and an 8.5-metre wide road would be created for cycle rickshaws and cycles. Walkways were also proposed for the easy and safe movement of pedestrians. But the plan is gathering dust.

Some traders’ associations had initially objected to the plan as they thought it would hit their businesses. But now, with people having barely enough space to walk in the market, the traders have changed their mind.

With the Metro’s Heritage Line set to start operation in February, the market is likely to see even more crowds.

In a bid to move Chandni Chowk towards becoming vehicle free, the High Court had ordered the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to construct a multi-level parking lot at Gandhi Maidan “But everyone knows the track record of the civic body and the pace at which work is completed,” said another trader, requesting anonymity.

Multiplicity of agencies, however, remains the major problem.As per officials, in a recent Shahjahanabad Board meeting, the government and the many agencies involved: the north corporation, the PWD and the Delhi Metro, were unable to reach consensus on many issues including electric buses and whether commercial vehicles should be allowed into the area.

“The civic agencies and the government have only ruined the character of the market. Too many cooks spoil the broth,” said Mr. Bhargava.

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