In 1650, when Jehanara Begum, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's favourite daughter, gave final touches to the layout of Chandni Chowk, she could have hardly imagined what a pitiable state it would one day be in.
Even as Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest commercial hubs in the city, has been lying in a state of gross neglect for many years, civic agencies have only been turning a blind eye to its multiple problems.
The market is plagued with encroachment, traffic congestion and a faulty sewage system, laid nearly a century ago.
While the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has been delaying the replacement of the sewerage, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is supposed to decongest the area and remove encroachment under its redevelopment plan.
This plan, though, has been gathering dust for the past eight years.
However, both the civic agencies — the MCD and the DJB — have been trying to evade responsibility in the matter.
MCD officials claimed that Saturday's cave-in happened due to a faulty sewerage pipeline that had been leaking for the past few months.
"The pipelines are nearly a century old and have rusted. The DJB should have begun replacement a long time ago. But nothing has been done. Due to leakages in the pipeline, the road gave way," said a senior MCD official.
DJB officials, on the other hand, maintain that replacing pipelines is a huge task and DJB is unable to start work due to the prevailing traffic situation and encroachment in the area.
"There is chaos all around over there. Laying new pipelines is a mammoth task. Keeping the traffic situation in mind, the MCD needs to decongest the area before we start any work. We have replaced 70% of the water pipeline already," said a senior DJB official.
The old sewerage also plays the role of the drainage system during the monsoon, putting tremendous pressure on it.
"The old system is not good enough to handle both the sewage and the rainwater. The pipelines have been damaged excessively and need urgent repair," said an official.
The MCD had planned to start the redevelopment work before the Commonwealth Games but that failed.
Now, with the Games over, Chandni Chowk traders fear the plan may not be executed.
"Before the Games, we at least had some hope that the plan might be implemented. But now it seems unlikely," said Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapaar Mandal.