In the Delhi of 1930s, the traffic on roads comprised a few cars, tongas, bullock carts, horse-drawn carriages, palanquins, beasts of burden and large number of pedestrians.
However, despite the wide roads built for the new Capital, traffic management was a huge issue in the city even then.
In 1925, the traffic scene in Delhi forced D Petrie, the then Director of Intelligence Bureau to write an angry letter to the Chief Commissioner of Delhi, ER Abbott. “The traffic arrangements in the Capital are very bad and a whole time, self contained department is required to manage it,” he says in the letter. Petrie also mentions that despite similar traffic in Bombay, the situation there was much better. Some things never change!
In the National Archives of India, many documents dating to 1920s can be found stating ‘complaints regarding traffic arrangements in Delhi are not uncommon and control is unsatisfactory’. The situation became worse during the annual session of Chamber of Princes that were held in New Delhi. Hundreds of royals from different princely states of India would converge in the Capital, each with a cavalcade of fancy cars vying with each other for attention.
The princes would stay in their respective houses, located around the All-India War Memorial (India Gate) and the roads in the area would become dangerous, thanks to their recklessly driven cars. Another problem was the vehicles belonging to army generals on the city roads. With the situation going out of control, a traffic department under a Superintendent of Police was finally formed by 1927.