Parking in free-parking zones is not actually free

August 25, 2014 12:00 am | Updated 05:47 am IST - NEW DELHI:

19 sites declared free of charge by NDMC, but mafia demanding up to Rs. 40

Brazenly flouting the law, parking contractors across north Delhi are charging customers up to Rs. 40 for a spot in free-parking zones. Nineteen parking sites were declared to be free of charge by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation recently as the contractors had stopped paying monthly licence fees and the procedure to get new tenders is still under way.

The corporation decided that till new contractors could be put in place, the public should get some relief since the money collected by the existing companies was not reaching the civic body’s coffer.

On August 20, officials informed the standing committee of the civic body that boards with ‘Free Parking’ written on them had been put up at the 19 sites. However, a reality check by The Hindu over the last three days showed that execution was lax.

At one of the busiest markets in Delhi, Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh, attendants asked for anything between Rs. 20 and Rs. 40. Though the site is now a free-parking zone, the authorised rate used to be Rs. 10.

Confidently, said a parking in-charge, “We don’t have a fixed rate. Yeh toh pyaar, mohabbat ki baat hai (it depends on the disposition of the customer).”

Attendants in plainclothes were helping shoppers double park their vehicles on the road, which led to loud arguments and blaring horns when access to the market got blocked.

A driver, Shamshad, was visibly enraged by the parking attendants’ harassment. “They keep asking me for Rs. 30, but won’t give me a receipt,” he said.

The mafia that runs most of the sites in Delhi has become so confident that the free-parking boards put up by the corporation were pulled down within days.

The board was put up at an intersection of Ajmal Khan Road earlier this week, according to local shopkeepers.

Rai Sahab, whose clothing store is at the intersection, said, “I did see the board three days ago, but now it’s gone. The authorities have not been able to enforce this.”

At Videocon Tower in Jhandelwan, where parking is supposed to be free, parking attendants still pop up once in a while, but they have become more cautious.

The corporation’s free-parking board can be seen under a tree and when The Hindu visited there were no attendants in sight.

Manjit Singh, who works in the area, said, “The parking contractor has become careful, but his attendants do collect money sometimes.”

While the free-parking experiment may have mixed results, other parking sites in north Delhi have a range of irregularities. On Gurdwara Road in Karol Bagh, parking is at a premium. Customers are asked for Rs. 40, while a board in the vicinity declares the rate to be Rs. 10. In Prasad Nagar, cars are parked and double parked, all the way to Pusa Road in blatant encroachment by the contractor.

From contractors eating into roads and pavements to attendants charging four times the legal rate, the mafia that runs parking in the Capital has dug deep.

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