Steep stairways make way for ramps at Delhi’s Qutub Minar
Steep stairways at the world heritage site of Qutub Minar will no longer pose a challenge to the disabled and the elderly as the Archaeological Survey of India has installed wooden ramps at three places within the complex, said officials in the premier heritage body.
One ramp has come up between the Qutub Minar and the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (both built by the Mamluk sultans of Delhi in the late 12th and early 13th centuries), while another is under construction and will connect the 16th-century Tomb of Imam Zamin built during the reign of Emperor Humayun with the 14th-century Alai Darwaza constructed by Sultan Alauddin Khilji. A third ramp will come up near the mosque.
These ramps are being built over the existing stairways, which will no longer be accessible to any visitor. “Earlier, visitors were required to climb 15-20 stairs, which was not comfortable. While one ramp has already come up, two others are nearing completion and will be made operational soon. These will provide ease of access for the disabled and the elderly who struggle to climb stairs,” said an ASI official, who did not wish to be named.
But this won’t limit the visitor experience. “We have installed glass panels on the sides of the ramps, which will allow visitors to see the staircases and their layouts below,” the official added.
This is among the many changes that the complex has seen since last year, including a new parking lot, six new booking counters, four ticket-vending machines, toilets, drinking water kiosks, a cafeteria and a cloakroom. Due to this, the official said, the monument is close to becoming an ‘aadarsh smarak’ (model monument) as envisioned by a 2014 scheme of the same name that promises better civic amenities at heritage monuments.
“There is now Wi-Fi internet connectivity at the complex, while touch-screen kiosks are also being set up. In terms of infrastructure and facilities, the complex is nearly ready and only a few aspects are left to be covered. Only an interpretation centre is missing right now,” said the official.
A UNESCO world heritage site, the Qutub complex usually ranks among the top two in Delhi when it comes to footfall. Before the pandemic struck last year, Red Fort had the highest footfall. “When the monuments reopened after the first lockdown, Qutab Minar saw the highest footfall. Even before the pandemic, Qutub Minar was among the most visited monuments,” said another senior ASI official, requesting anonymity.
As per ASI data, 24,496 people visited the site between September 1 and 19; the visitor figures for Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb during this period were 23,052 and 6,018, respectively.
The official said that there could be multiple reasons behind the post-lockdown visitor spike at the monument. “South Delhi has many well-to-do people who might have found it easier to visit the monument during the unlock phase at a time when other public transport facilities were suspended,” said the official.
Heritage enthusiast, writer and filmmaker Sohail Hashmi said better facilities and easier access were welcome developments. “Quite a lot of our monuments such as Kotla Ferozeshah, Begumpur Masjid, and Hauz Khas, among others, are inaccessible to the differently-abled,” said Hashmi, adding that even eateries around the Qutub complex look cleaner now.