If one goes by the Smart City project for Delhi, then three years from now Connaught Place is all set to be the ‘Times Square’ of India with high-end digital screens and a pedestrianised inner and middle circle. Go a little further, and the plan also involves making Khan Market and other major shopping hubs in Central Delhi ‘no-vehicle zones’.
Why ‘no-vehicle zones’?
The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) which is implementing the project believes that pedestrianising certain areas, especially market places, is an effective way to decongest them.
“It increases the sense of safety in people as well. Besides, take CP for example – the entire hub sees more cars than it can actually take,” said Naresh Kumar, chairman, NDMC.
It took at least five years to convince people in the US for pedestrianising the Times Square and now people can’t think of a better way the place could have been transformed, he added.
The civic agency says it would introduce customised battery-operated vehicles for public transport within the Inner Circle of CP, while parking would be allowed in the outer circle and at Palika. It is also mulling to give incentives to users who park in the under-utilised automated parking lot at Baba Kharak Singh Marg.
The problem, however, lies in implementing the same for other markets. HT has found that so far there is no concrete plan to completely ‘pedestrianise’ Khan Market and others. “The plan for Khan Market was to convert the front parking area into a green space for the public and build a multi-level parking. Technically, the walking area would remain the same as it is now,” informed an official. The plan has been in limbo since 2014.
On Wednesday, Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that the agency must make other markets no vehicle zones too.
Traffic cops react
The traffic police feels that the move to pedestrianise CP is doable. But when asked about the same for Khan Market, they said it would require detailed planning about parking. “We are aware of the plan for CP, but have not received any proposal for Khan Market yet from NDMC. But, it is to be seen if other stakeholders, the traders, would agree to such plans,” said Garima Bhatnagar, Joint CP (Traffic)
Khan Market traders say No
Refusing to agree the plan, traders in this posh market which houses cafes, restro-bars and shops said the move would further reduce their clientele.
“NDMC and traffic police should rather focus on curbing vehicles which go via the market to go to Golf Links, Sunder Nagar and so on. That is the actual reason for chaos in the area. Besides, Khan Market is not so big a place where battery-operated vehicles could ply. So if it is pedestrianised, then all the elderly, expats, diplomats who come here would stop coming as cars will be parked far away and hawkers will start encroaching,” said Khan Market Traders Association president, Sanjeev Mehra.
He added that the biggest mistake was to allow first floor residences for commercial use which has made the market a serious safety hazard as there is no clear fire safety mechanism in place.
CP traders say No
Traders of CP said the plan to pedestrianise the inner circle has been going on almost for a decade now. “We will never agree to it. CP has a mix of office-goers, shoppers and those coming for recreation. Where will people park their cars as all the existing parking lots are completely packed,” said New Delhi Traders Association president, Atul Bhargawa.