Vehicles and chaos back at pedestrian-friendly markets
A ground check by HT on Sunday found the lane marked for emergency services on the Ajmal Khan Road has been taken over by vehicles, street lights have been stained by people chewing paan or gutkha spitting on them, and cars and two-vehicles parked near the benches meant for the shoppers to relax.Updated: Nov 23, 2020, 06:42 IST
Over a year since Karol Bagh market was made pedestrian-friendly, with decorative street lights, benches, flower pots, and bollards, it is back to its usual congested self.
A ground check by HT on Sunday found the lane marked for emergency services on the Ajmal Khan Road has been taken over by vehicles, street lights have been stained by people chewing paan or gutkha spitting on them, and cars and two-vehicles parked near the benches meant for the shoppers to relax.
Similar scenes were witnessed at east Delhi’s Krishna Nagar market, which was also made pedestrian friendly under a project by the municipal bodies to decongest city markets and make some portions no-go zones for vehicles.
The municipal corporations had allowed vehicular movement in these markets in July on the insistence by the traders that they need to ramp up sales that were devastated due to the prolonged lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Now, the civic bodies have extended the relaxation given for vehicle movement by two months. Traders of the two markets had sought to extend relaxation till March next year.
The civic authorities say that the current relaxation is likely to continue till January 2021. “Vehicular movement was allowed on traders demand due to the pandemic. It is a temporary relaxation. In January, there will be an assessment and efforts will be made to re-launch the pedestrianisation plan,” a senior North Delhi Municipal Corporation official said.
Karol Bagh was the first shopping hub in Delhi to be pedestrianised, as part of which its main market road (Ajmal Khan Road) was restricted for vehicles in May last year. Similarly, around 1-km stretch between Chhachi Building and Ghondli Chowk in Krishna Nagar’s Lal Quarter Market was pedestrianised in October last year.
Shoppers, however, said the experience was better with pedestrian facilities. “When there was no vehicular movement on the main road of the market, everything looked in order. But now, most of the space is taken over by vehicles. Many a times we have to sit on benches with cars parked just beside it,” Nikita Sangwan, a shopper in Karol Bagh market said.
Murli Mani, president Ajmal Khan Road Traders Association, said due to Covid-19 pandemic sales went down by 60% and that restriction on vehicular movement will further restrict business.
“Mostly shoppers use private vehicles. They do not want to use public transport due to Covid-19. If the main road is pedestrianised again, the customers will stop visiting the market. We have requested the civic body to extend relaxations till March but they have agreed to allow vehicular movement in the market till January 2021,” Mani said.
Jagdish Vohra, president, Lal Quarter Market Association, said pedestrianisation should not be implemented till Covid-19 situation prevails.
Jai Prakash, mayor north corporation, said, “It is an unprecedented situation which has badly hit the businesses. So, we also have to think about our traders and take necessary steps. These relaxations are temporary and pedestrianisation will be re-implemented when the situation improves.”
Knowledge partner to the Union ministry of home affairs, Anuj Malhotra, who had assisted north and east corporations in making Karol Bagh and Krishna Nagar markets pedestrian friendly, said it was disappointing to see the vehicles running on a pedestrianised stretches. “Such relaxations should remain only temporary measures. The authorities should try to restore pedestrian-only stretches in both the markets,” he said.