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Capital story: Managing a New Delhi

delhi Updated: Sep 08, 2012 13:46 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy

Construction of New Delhi, the new capital of India, was one of the biggest construction endeavours in the world at that time. The Capital was inaugurated in 1931 and then began the new challenge: Managing the new city.

Many government departments had shifted to the secretariat buildings a decade before the official inauguration but even by 1930s, New Delhi was a dead town by night with government employees returning to their homes in the old city.

With the construction of housing for employees near the Gole Market area, the real population of New Delhi grew exponentially during World War II. New Delhi needed a civic body to take care of its growing needs.

The beginning of a municipal body for New Delhi took place way back in 1913, when the Imperial Delhi Committee was formed. The British deemed it necessary that instead of the Delhi Municipality, the control of construction and management of the Capital should be with a central authority. In 1916, the Raisina Municipal Committee was formed. The new Capital was christened New Delhi in 1927 and that is when the committee was named New Delhi Municipal Committee.

In 1916, the municipality's responsibility was limited to catering to the sanitation requirements of the construction workers building the Capital. By 1931, the committee was expected to take care of buildings, roads, sewers, medical and public health arrangements.

NDMC's major function remained providing facilities to government buildings. House tax formed a major part of its revenue. It also earned sizeable rents from the shops at Baird Road Market and Connaught Place and by leasing cricket, football and hockey grounds.

After the Capital's inauguration, its roads were widened for the growing traffic and arterial roads like Lower Ridge Road, Hailey Road, outer and inner circles of Connaught Place, Hanuman Road etc. were strengthened.

To keep the city clean, 11 trucks used to pick garbage and dump it at the Jor Bagh nursery. The sewerage used to be drained at the farmhouses in Kilokari.

In 1932, electricity distribution and water supply also became the civic body's responsibility. Soon, it became one of the few municipalities in the country to have its own power generation plant. Water was supplied to government offices and 'clerk quarters' from a reservoir at Talkatora.

Public transport, however, was in private hands as people relied mainly on tongas and the bus services of the Gwalior and Northern India Transport Company.