A massive cultural festival, a religious gathering, a protest march, 20,000 weddings and a spell of rain — and Delhi descended into traffic chaos on Friday.
Jams were reported from south, central and east Delhi with some vehicle queues running 3-4 kilometres long.
The opening of the Art of Living foundation’s controversial World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna saw 150,000 people make their way to the east Delhi area. Several roads leading to the venue from south and central Delhi were closed to general traffic from 3.30pm. Strict security checks on other routes led to jams from noon itself.
A parking issue aggravated the problem with the festival organisers managing space for just 300 vehicles instead of the 5,000 promised. This resulted in buses and cars being parked on the DND flyway and on arterial roads in Sarai Kale Khan and Maharani Bagh.
In the evening, brisk showers led to waterlogged roads, further slowing down traffic. Vikas Marg, Ashram intersection, ITO, Mathura Road, Nizamuddin, Ashram Chowk and Kalindi Kunj were among the most choked. The spillover went as far and wide as Dhaula Kuan, Tilak Marg, India Gate and South Extension.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a gathering of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas saw over 3,000 people head towards Chattarpur in south Delhi, while jewellers protesting the imposition of 1% excise duty on non-silver jewellery marched from east to central Delhi via Vikas Marg, causing more jams and diversions.
Commuters may be in for trouble on Saturday too with both the culture festival and Radha Soami event on for the next two days and the weatherman predicting more rain.
Over 5,500 traffic personnel, 5,000 policemen and 100 volunteers were out on the city’s roads on Friday while a helicopter made rounds in the evening for better traffic management.
“Many VIPs and foreign dignitaries attended the culture festival. Security pickets were set up at several points around the venue and all our officials worked to ensure the event ran smoothly and that traffic was not affected too much,” said Muktesh Chander, special commissioner of police (traffic).
“Parking is on first-come-first-serve basis. Once the designated lots are filled, we send back vehicles,” he added.
The Delhi government’s transport department refused the organisers permission to use the Millennium bus depot, which can accommodate 1,000 vehicles.