Every morning Mohit Singhal wastes precious time and fuel on taking a longer route to reach his office in Central Delhi’s Connaught Place. Singhal, a legal advisor with a multinational bank, drives an extra 7km by taking the Ring Road-Delhi Gate-Minto Road route to his office.
Connaught Place, otherwise, is a 15minutes drive from his Bungalow Road residence in North Delhi by the shorter — but traffic jam-riddled — Pul Bangash-Azad Market-Filmistan-Rani Jhansi Road, which he avoids.
Like Singhal, most motorists avoid the route, the shortest connecting Central and New Delhi with North Delhi. Traffic jams on this stretch are long and routine.
The problem starts right at the mouth of Rani Jhansi Road at Pul Bangash. “This is a two-lane small bridge, not meant to cater to the high volume of traffic it now handles. Since a key water pipeline runs parallel to the bridge, there is no scope to widen it either,” said a traffic police officer.
One other problem. “I don’t understand why the traffic police cannot ensure buses to halt at Pul Bangash to pick passengers. Waiting pedestrians, rickshaws and even three-wheelers at this point has unleashed chaos on the road,” said Nadim Ansari, a trader.
Poor road engineering has further worsened the situation. It is a big traffic junction. “Madam, yeh sat-raha hai, chowraha nahi (Madam, this is a seven-road junction and not a four-road one),” points out the traffic cop on duty at Azad Market intersection.
A unique intersection — and not a roundabout — in entire Delhi, where as many as seven roads meet to bring about chaos equally unique, this stretch of Rani Jhansi Road is a challenge for the traffic police.
Instead of stopping before the stop line, traffic coming from Pul Bangash often stop in the middle of the intersection when the signal turns red, obstructing the movement of slow-moving traffic such as bullock-pulled carts and trucks going towards or coming out of Azad Market.
The variety of vehicles that cross this intersection is amazing: at any given time, one can witness a stream of a hassled labourer pushing a cart carrying goods much beyond his capacity; a cattle-driven cart with goods perched to the brim on its trailer; tempos, trucks apart from the buses, cars, two-wheelers and bicycles, not to mention the pedestrians converging from all seven roads.
The situation worsens at late hours when trucks start bringing in goods meant for traders of the Azad Market, dealing in canvas and leather. The right turn on Bahadur Garh Road is another bottleneck, when traffic coming from Sadar Bazar vies for space with traffic coming from Tis Hazari side. Potholed roads further slow it down.
Although traffic cops are deployed at the junction for 16-18 hours, the very nature of the traffic makes it an uphill task. Conceding that the “requirement of this place is different,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) S.N. Shrivastava said, “Deployment of more traffic personnel is necessary. (But) some shortage is always bound to be there.”
With 1,000 traffic personnel expected to join the ranks soon, traffic police officers hoped traffic management would improve with the deployment of more personnel.
Are there no solutions?
One solution is making it a four-road intersection by closing three of the seven roads. That is easier said than done. Then?
“The tyre market will be relocated. A flyover is also planned from Baraf Khana (near Tis Hazari) to the Filmistan theatre. We hope this will reduce some congestion,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police-Traffic (Northern Range) R.K. Pande.
The flyover will definitely help those motorists coming from East Delhi headed towards West as they can whiz past without getting into the mess below.
Can Azad Market be relocated?
More importantly, will the step really de-congest the route? The shops have been around since almost 1950. The problem, the traders say, is not because of the market but because of improper planning.
“We will oppose relocation tooth and nail. Our relocation will not solve the problem here. The real problem is encroachment on the market roads. The authorities should remove all encroachments first, creating more road space,” says Prem Wadhwa, president, Azad Market Traders’ Association, echoing the views of many other traders.
“Another suggestion,” that he claimed to have written about to authorities is “the corporation schools opposite the Gurudwara, mostly shut, be used for parking or similar other purposes.”