On August 10, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) began its the phase-III expansion with the trial run on the ITO-Kashmere Gate section, also known as the Heritage Line. The new line passes through a number of the Capital’s key historical landmarks such as Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid and Red Fort, Sunehri Masjids, the Jain Temple, Gurudwara Sheesh Ganj Sahib, the Fatehpuri mosque and the Akbarabadi Masjid. Then the old city of Shahjanabad that houses these landmarks is also a key commercial hub of the city, which includes Asia’s largest Khari Baoli that has been operating since the 17th century.
But a dependable, safe and comfortable connectivity alone will not encourage tourists to come to the historically rich area unless we make the area tourist-friendly and attractive for tourists with proper walking areas, signages, toilets, refreshment facilities, a proper plan of moving around the place and even memento shops to give them a holistic experience within a certain span of time. Not all tourists are adventurous and have the time to roam around endlessly to “soak in the atmosphere”; most have a time limit and would want to experience the history and grandeur within a certain time-frame and minus any hassles.
Take for example, Khari Baoli. In any other country, this place would have been definitely on the tourist map with guides helping them to understand its history and the “spice trail”. But last year when I visited Khari Baoli, I found the whole area in a mess, the market without any signages and shopkeepers unwilling (unaware?) to talk about the market’s history and trade links. Reaching Khari Baoli is not for the faint-hearted; the walk is far from pleasurable and at the end all you get is a run-down market without any information about its historical past.
Now think about how the Spanish government is marketing Barcelona’s The Boqueria Market, which originated in 1701, on Ramblas, its main tourist area. It has a website of its own, well divided product zones and is extremely tourist friendly.
Things could have been better for Delhi’s Walled City had the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation had got its act together. The redevelopment of the Walled City or Shahjahanabad was first proposed and cleared by the Congress’ government in 2007. But lack of proper personnel, multiplicity of authority and other problems left the Walled City as it has been for several years: A beautiful area with havelis and religious places and a buzzing commercial hub but meant only for the very brave and bold.
Government officials recently admitted to a national daily that the corporation has been reduced to a defunct organisation, allegedly due to disputes and issues raised by residents and traders of the Chandni Chowk and other Walled City areas.
It’s for reasons like these that Delhi, and India, does not get as many tourists as they should, considering India has so many different experiences to offer. Unsurprisingly, the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015 ranks India 52nd out of 141 countries overall.