There was a time when RK Manchanda, resident of Star Apartments in Rohini, relished returning home from office. “The temperature was always a couple of degrees lower.” But Manchanda’s idyllic Rohini is now history. “The traffic comes at you from all sides,” he said.
Change of heart
The new Rohini prides itself on gleaming malls and multiplexes. It is pitched as a place to chill out in. Residents, however, feel anything but chilled out. To them, malls, multiplexes and amusement parks coming up cheek by jowl spell huge traffic jams in the sub-city.
“During weekends and festivals, crossing the road from Pitampura to Rohini takes up to an hour,” said RC Sharma, resident of Cosy Apartments in Sector-9.
“I am scared of going for a walk to Japanese Park. The place is chaotic in the mornings with cars parked on the roads illegally. Mysteriously, the municipal corporation has removed the footpaths outside the park,” said Sharma.
MCD had dug up footpaths along the park purportedly to resize them and widen the road. But they were not rebuilt. The space is now used to park cars illegally. Even getting into Rohini through Madhuban Chowk is a headache as the Kohat Enclave market holds up traffic. This market has come up in a residential area.
But the real problem starts further ahead at Netaji Subhas Place that has emerged as a major commercial hotspot. Dilli Haat (Pitampura) has been set up bang opposite Subhas Place. So, traffic snarls are the norm on weekends.
“Dilli Haat was located at that spot as it is close to the Metro station and there is a college nearby. They possibly wanted to develop it as a spot for the youth. But they forgot Netaji Subhas Place across the road, which is still developing,” said KT Ravindran, urban designer and chairman, Delhi Urban Arts Commission.
The entry through Prashant Vihar used to be a short cut for residents, but a PVR Multiplex there now brings visitors from all over north and west Delhi. A similar commercial hub near M2K Mall in Sector 3 brings the area to a virtual halt during show timings.
“Four malls are under construction between Rohini West Metro station and Japanese Park. The biggest district centre in the city, spread over 66 hectares, is also coming up in the area,” said Ravindran. “Rohini was planned as a high-quality residential area. Its roads were not meant to handle such loads.”
What went wrong
Residents say land use is changed and instead of planned facilities — like parks, commercial centres, DDA markets or schools — malls, temples and banquet halls are built.
“Where are the parking lots for these establishments?” said Dr SL Sagar, Overseas Apartments’ RWA president.
Enforcers break the law
Sagar was instrumental in getting a slum cluster relocated from a DDA park behind his group housing society. But as soon as the patch of land was free, MCD took over the land and started construction on it.
“We got that demolished after an order from Delhi High Court,” said Sagar. Residents claim several patches of lands were lying vacant, which the authorities were merely waiting to auction at commercial rates.
Residents say the authorities have not been as proactive about developing community facilities as they have been about auctioning land for commercial use.
“There should not be so many malls. Malls are expensive and local traders can’t afford shops in them. Rich people buy these shops and keep them closed. That increases prices,” said Sagar.
Ravindran said unbridled commercial activity as an official policy provided hotel and shop plots so that the auction value of land goes up.
“This is a strategy to increase the value of land against public interest,” he said.
Tuning in to the residents of Rohini
Rohini is highly congested, especially because of all those roadside malls that don’t even have their own parking space. As a result, visitors park their cars on the roads and block them. It takes me an hour at least to commute within Rohini. MCD should discourage parking lots on roads and ask the mall authorities to make parking arrangements.
— S Sharma, 57, retired naval officer
The allocation of plots in residential areas is erratic, due to which the streets sometimes get extremely congested. At times, when I open my windows, I don’t get any fresh air. This was not what we bought the plot for. The allotment of plots should be revised.
—Dixika, 21, student
The streets near my house stink, as sewage water keeps flowing down them. To avoid the filthy patches, I have to make a long detour to reach my house, which takes 20 more minutes. These filthy streets also serve as a breeding ground for insects. MCD can at least get the area cleaned or make a footpath so that we can walk down.
—Aradhana, 21, student
I stay in Sector 17 and it’s very dirty and crammed. There is no place to walk and we can’t even park our cars here. I park my car in Sector 15 and walk down to my house that is 6 km away. This is really annoying, especially after a hectic day. The alternative is to park in the Metro station parking. Multi-storey parking should be provided in every other sector.
—Rachana, 24, MBA
My neighborhood is full of small tuition centres and it becomes very difficult to reach home, as the students always stand in groups and block the way. Driving becomes difficult as small food carts also obstruct the path of residents. Tuition centres should be banned in residential areas and should be shifted out to the markets instead.
—Nishi, 25, professional
Popular multiplex holds traffic in a freeze frame
Home is where the heart is, but in Rohini’s Sector 7, the flesh must wait before it can follow the heart home. “We have to wait for long intervals before we can cut through the passing traffic to enter our own locality. With more malls coming up all around, how long can things go on like this?” said Deepak Bansal (26), a property dealer who resides and operates from Sector 7, adjacent to M2K multiplex in Sector 3.
Residents blame the indiscriminate, and mostly unplanned mushrooming of commercial complexes for making their lives difficult. Bansal, who regularly visits an acquaintance at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, has to take a 2 km detour due to the rush of vehicles entering and exiting from the single gate at M2K.
“I take a series of damaged bylanes surrounded by slums to Madhuban Chowk, to visit my friend. The route is longer, but I prefer it to getting stuck at the T-point in front of M2K.”
Though the alternative route is less crowded, it is unsafe, especially for families. Bansal’s neighbour was recently robbed at gunpoint in a bylane adjacent to M2K when he was returning home after a midnight show.
Need kamikaze nerves to get past Japanese Garden
Getting out of their house is no mean achievement for the Ranas. “Just last week, I got stuck at the main gate of the Japanese Park for 20 minutes while taking my wife to Jaipur Golden Hospital. Thank god, it was for a routine check-up. But it made me wonder how I would manage in an emergency,” said Rajesh Kumar Rana, resident of Mayur Apartments opposite the main gate of the sprawling Japanese Park in Rohini.
Owing to commercial ‘development’ in and around their locality, the Rana household is one among many struggling to come to terms with the congestion that it has brought about.
Rana’s woes are compounded on weekends, when most of his off day goes into maneuvering his way through the rush of people visiting Japanese Park. “It’s utter chaos. I can’t find peace of mind in my own home.”
With vehicles parked on either side of the road blocking traffic near the main entrance of the grand park — which is adjacent to his apartment — Rana has a hard time, to say the least.
“There’s a private banquet hall right behind my apartment block. Needless to say, every wedding translates into a frustrating traffic problem for me.”
On weekends, Zaidis have obstacle course dinners
“I can’t even remember how many of my family outings have been cancelled because of the congestion at Madhuban Chowk and the Netaji Subhash Place crossing,” said Mehran Zaidi (23), a resident of Sai Baba Apartments located in Sector 15, Rohini.
With at least four red lights on the way, the average stoppage time for commuters using the Netaji Subhas Place stretch comes to 25 minutes. The problem is aggravated on weekends, as hordes of shoppers visit Dilli Haat opposite the sprawling commercial complex.
A student, Zaidi prefers taking the Metro to traveling in his personal car because of the congestion. However, when the Zaidi household is out on a family dinner, they have no choice but to take their car — and get stuck in a frustrating jam.
“Last Friday, we decided to visit Khan Market for dinner. It was around 7 pm when we left. It took me 40 minutes to negotiate the 2-odd kilometres to Netaji Subhas Place. I decided to turn the car around and use the outer Ring Road route, to be stuck for another 25 minutes. We just gave up and came back home.
“People just park their cars on the main roads. The pedestrians crossing over from both sides make matters worse,” said Zaidi.
‘New traffic circulation plan is need of the hour’
Vijender Gupta, Municipal councillor from Rohini Gupta spoke to Anuradha Mukherjee.
Why is Rohini getting increasingly congested?
Rohini’s entry and exit are not properly planned. Madhuban Chowk is utter chaos. There is also high density of population in Rohini. The internal roads were considered wide enough at one point but are now congested. We need a new traffic circulation plan.
Why are visitor-centric facilities coming up in residential areas without adequate space for parking or traffic movement?
DDA planned commercial complexes or community facilities along with residential areas. Nobody really expected residential areas to commercialise. But there is no sense in having a multiplex in a residential area like Prashant Vihar. DDA sanctioned the multiplex — MCD had no role. But even if it had, it would be bound to give sanction, as the land was marked for a commercial complex in the plans.
But MCD clears the building plans...
DDA is the culprit for sanctioning a cinema on a plot for a commercial complex. But no action can be taken as it was done legally.
Land use on a number of plots has been changed — especially for parks to accommodate markets and banquet halls. Why is this happening?
This is very rare. DDA changes land use under pressure. But one cannot pinpoint instances.
MCD tried to take over a park in front of Overseas Apartments for building a works department office — residents had to vacate it with a court order?
We needed an office for casual road repairs in the area. These are usually on green spaces. They are called temporary structures — but become permanent features over time. This happens at many places in Delhi — both MCD and PWD do it.
Why isn’t vacant land used to develop community facilities like auditoriums or halls, instead of malls?
DDA used to develop its own markets and auction them. But there are no takers for them. So, they started auctioning land for malls under a changed policy. But if a mall comes up, shops come up in urban villages like Razapur, which take care of local needs. There are 10 MCD community halls in Rohini, but it’s also true that many other plots for community halls have been taken over by private banquet halls.