Fixing basic infra, improving safety for making Delhi a 24X7 city: Experts
New Delhi: Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena’s decision to allow restaurants, chemist shops, and transport services to operate round-the-clock is a first step towards making Delhi a 24-hour city, a concept first introduced in the draft Master Plan of Delhi-2041 last year
New Delhi: Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena’s decision to allow restaurants, chemist shops, and transport services to operate round-the-clock is a first step towards making Delhi a 24-hour city, a concept first introduced in the draft Master Plan of Delhi-2041 last year.
However, experts feel that to ensure a vibrant nightlife and a thriving night time economy, some quick measures have to be taken to ensure public safety, especially for women, modify timings for availability of public transport.
The Delhi government is likely to issue a notification regarding exceptions in the Delhi Shops and Establishment Act, 1954, in a week’s time. The move will immediately benefit 300 plus establishments ranging from hotels, restaurants, eateries to online delivery services of food, medicines, logistics and other essential commodities, transport and travel services that have been such approvals for the past six years.
Both the Aam Aadmi Party government and the Delhi development Authority (DDA) have been pushing for night time economy.
The draft MPD-2041, which will be finalised by April next year, has proposed development of nightlife circuits around cultural precincts, heritage areas, central business districts to provide the city a “vibrant nightlife”. It proposed that restaurants and commercial establishments remain open 24x7 so that Delhi can become a “24-hour city” just like London, Paris, New York and Amsterdam.
While the business community, civic society members and experts have welcomed the decision, they said a host of measures are needed to implement the idea.
A good public transport system during night and well-planned spaces are essential for the city to have a nightlife. London, New York, Seoul, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Tokyo are some cities where public transport is available 24x7.
Currently, the Metro services are not available after 11 -11.30 pm, the frequency of buses drops significantly after 10pm, and a limited number of auto-rickshaws ply at night.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at Centre for Science and Environment said it is a good move to promote night time economy and nightlife in the city, but there is a need to ensure safe access to public transport.
She said, “To promote night time economy, it is important to provide people safe access and good public transport services. Otherwise what will happen is that it will only get people who have a personal vehicle. The purpose of the night time economy will not be fully optimized unless we give good public transport service and also good placemaking.”
Hitesh Vaidya, director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (which has helped DDA in preparing the Master Plan vision document), said, “Cities should consciously support night time economies and active nightlife. This has several potential positives. It will support numerous activities that can thrive at night, for instance, cultural activities, certain industries, logistics, etc. thereby helping to stagger work timings and reduce congestion on roads. This will also substantially increase productive use of city resources by utilising city infrastructure throughout the day, resulting in higher economic output.”
Safety of people, specially women, experts say has to be ensured during night time. It is not just public transport, but measures have to be taken to ensure that women feel safe to go out at night.
Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, said, “There is a need to address issues related to the safety of women so that they can work at night and visit these nightlife hubs. Good public transport system, specially last mile connectivity, is essential and there is also a need to have more eyes on the street. Cities like Bangkok have a good nightlife and women feel safe to go out. They should also allow street vendors to do business at night, as they act as eyes on the streets.”
Markets and restaurants
Welcoming the decision, restaurant owners said that this has been a longstanding demand, and market associations said that the government should allow all commercial establishments to open round-the-clock.
Manpreet Singh, the owner of Zen restaurant in Connaught Place and the treasurer of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), said, “This has been our long pending demand that markets like Connaught Place should be allowed to operate 24x7. This will not only provide more employment opportunities, but also generate revenue for the government. We are hopeful that the decision to serve liquor will also be extended after this decision.”
Traders association said that the government should ensure law and order in commercial areas where establishments will be allowed to open 24 hours. Atul Bhargava, president of New Delhi Traders Association at Connaught Place, said, “It is a popular concept abroad and can be done here too, but the police have to ensure law and order. The government should first try it on a pilot basis in a few commercial centres.”
But traders in Lajpat Nagar say that all city markets should be allowed to remain open at night. Ashwani Marwah, general secretary, traders Association Lajpat Nagar said, “At present, there is massive rush during weekends, as people don’t get time to visit the markets during weekdays due to their working hours. Most markets close by 8-9 pm. All markets should be allowed to open round-the-clock. Market associations can be roped for security.”