An unavoidable destination for foreign and domestic tourists alike, north Delhi’s historic Chandni Chowk market is in the stranglehold of petty criminals.
According to visitors, residents and shop owners, CCTVs installed to keep an eye on the bustling commercial centre have stopped working and incidents of petty street crime such as chain snatching, pick pocketing and vehicle thefts have become daily occurrences less than a fortnight before Independence Day celebrations.
“The market is adjacent to the Red Fort, which used to turn into a fortress weeks before Independence Day. This year, however, police deployment and patrolling has gone down and consequently numerous incidents of street crime occur daily,” said Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vypar Mandal.
On Saturday, a gang of assailants fled with a 68-year-old retired Indian Army Colonel’s bag containing cash and valuables amounting to more than Rs 3.5 lakh.
“I was having lunch at a dhaba located in the Fatehpuri area around 1 p.m. when the incident occurred,” said Col. (retd.) V.K Madan, a resident of Pune who was visiting his relatives in the capital and on his way to Chandni Chowk for shopping after the meal.
Col. Madan was returning after finalising a land deal in Dehradun.
“Since my wife has difficulty in walking, I had one of my relatives deliver some food to her as she sat in the car and looked after the bag containing documents and cash pertaining to the deal. After she had finished, she stepped out to throw the disposable plate in a garbage bin located some metres away. When she returned to the car a minute later, the bag was gone,” Col. Madan said.
On July 18, Rajender Bhatia, who runs a sari showroom in the Dariba area, lost his briefcase containing 1.5 lakh in cash and valuables to four men on two bikes in Moti Bazar.
“Not just businessmen, street criminals are targeting female residents of the area daily. I was walking to my Nai Sarak residence from Town Hall when two men on a bike snatched my chain last week,” said Kamini Jain (19), a resident of Jogiwara.
Another resident, Mohammad Aziz (45) who runs a clock repairing shop near the Fatehpuri Mazjid said, “Various police posts are located metres from each other throughout the Dariba Kalan street that runs till the Red Fort. But since they are occupied during the day, the criminals run amok in the evening.”
The police denied the allegations. “There is adequate police patrolling in the area. More officers will be deployed as and when additional force is sanctioned from our Head Quarters in the run-up to Independence Day. As far as CCTVs are concerned, they are machines.
Some of them may not be functioning and will be repaired in die course of time,” said Sagar Preet Hooda DCP (north).