Can Delhi's old-fashioned buses make way for glitzy malls to rescue traders hit by sealing of unauthorised shops across the national capital?
Industry chamber Assocham threw up the fancy idea on Thursday, possibly opening up a debate on the future of state-owned Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), whose surplus land of 100 acres in 34 bus depots could become a haven for aggressively growing retail companies as well as shops that need to sustain themselves after a crackdown by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) under the orders of the Supreme Court.
Releasing prime urban land where vehicles of the weakly performing DTC are parked can work wonders, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry said. What is more, it says the government could gain as much as Rs 500 crore a year from rentals and other revenue streams like advertising and parking charges.
Companies such as Reliance Industries, Bharti and others have already announced their retail ventures and may be seriously interested.
"It is a public utility company and retail is a public utility business. It certainly makes perfect sense. Delhi is suffering from several land shortage", said Kishore Biyani, chairman of Pantaloon, the company that runs the Big Bazaar chain. "It certainly creates synergy, where you can bring the retail experience closer to the masses," Biyani told Hindustan Times.
The DTC has 34 big depots based in areas that include prime residential localities such as Vasant Vihar, Kalkaji, Sarojini Nagar, Sriniwaspuri, Rohini, Hari Nagar, Naraina and Noida.
"The least that both the Delhi Government and the DTC should do to convert these barren and spacious depots into large commercial activities is to lease out a few of them to prospective bidders by floating Open Tenders to put up malls and commercial complexes through public-private partnership," Assocham said in a statement.
This is similar to the airport modernisation model proposed by the government for the 35 non-metro airports.
"Anything that releases land for the retail space in Delhi makes sense. It depends on what term and conditions and the model the government adopts," said Rajiv Singh, Managing Director of real estate giant DLF Universal.