Pragati Maidan tunnel closed today for upkeep, not art tour, says PWD

Updated on Jun 26, 2022 02:46 AM IST

The India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), which manages the Pragati Maidan, said in the long run, the task of organising such art tours may be outsourced to private operators.

An inside view of the main tunnel under the Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit corridor project inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)
An inside view of the main tunnel under the Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit corridor project inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)
By, New Delhi

The plan to put the murals and artwork in the newly inaugurated Pragati Maidan tunnel on public viewing make take a while yet, officials associated with the project have said, adding that the traffic movement closure in the tunnel on Sunday is being undertaken solely for maintenance purposes and road signage installation.

The India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), which manages the Pragati Maidan, said in the long run, the task of organising such art tours may be outsourced to private operators.

A senior public works department (PWD) official said the tunnel closure on Sunday is only for maintenance purposes and people should not come to the site for viewing artwork. “We had developed the tunnel as a road infrastructure and it was not planned to have toilet spaces or seating areas. If we want to use it as an art gallery, it will need separate planning and policymaking, which needs to be undertaken by ITPO. As per the proses idea, there should be guided tours with audio explanations of the various artwork. This cannot be executed suddenly. The tunnel will not be open on Sunday for artwork viewing,” the official said, asking not to be named.

Delhi traffic police also clarified that even pedestrian movement will not be allowed in the tunnel on June 26. “Pragati Maidan Tunnel will be closed on Sunday (26.06.22) for vehicular traffic. Kindly use Ring Road, Bhairon Road & Mathura Road as an alternative,” the traffic police advisory said.

The 1.3km long tunnel connects Mathura Road to Ring Road while passing under the Pagati Maidan. It has a large number of murals depicting India’s culture, flora and fauna, zodiac symbols and the different seasons in different parts of the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari as well as Mandala artwork.

While inaugurating the tunnel and five underpasses last Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that the tunnel be treated as an art gallery and, once a week, when traffic is low, educational tours may be organised for schoolchildren so that they can learn about the art, culture and festivals of the country.

LC Goyal, chairman and managing director, ITPO, said the tunnel is likely to be opened on Sundays for people to view the artworks but it will need more preparations and development of ancillary infrastructure in terms of seating areas, washrooms and snack bars. “In the long term, we will have to outsource all that work to a private agency,” he said.

In view of the additional infrastructure required, Goyal said he said showcasing of artwork cannot start from Sunday, June 26.

The managing director said when visitors come to the 1.2km long tunnel, they are likely to spend two to three hours walking and viewing the various artworks in the tunnel, and for that, route paths have to be charted out and other preparations made. “The PWD and Delhi traffic police will have to take a final call on from when the tunnel can be opened to visitors for art viewing,” Goyal said.

The murals inside the 1.2km tunnel are hand painted and transferred onto mild steel sheet, which enhances their look and quality. “The colours of these murals change every 250 metres of the tunnel.” Goyal said, adding that the 920 crore project was funded by the Central government and executed by Delhi PWD.

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