A tale of two cities

In the 1930s and for most of 1940s, Delhi was a study in contrast. Sidhartha Roy reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 13:39 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times

In the 1930s and for most of 1940s, Delhi was a study in contrast.

While the spanking New Delhi with its grand buildings and wide vistas was mostly desolate, the old city was bursting at its seams.

Earlier plans to build the new capital envisaged a harmony between it and the existing city. The ideas, however, were junked with the British determinedly cutting off the mingling of the two except for some buffer areas like Paharganj and Daryaganj. What was the city before 1911 had become 'walled city' by 1931.

After becoming the capital, Delhi kept on growing even as New Delhi started taking shape. People displaced from erstwhile villages like Madhoganj, Jaisingh Pura and Raja ka Bazaar to build Connaught Place and nearby areas, were relocated in Karol Bagh, then a rocky area populated by trees and wild, thorny bushes.

The residents of the badly congested shahar too were reluctant to move to places like the Western Expansion Area, built to decongest the old city. There were plans to break the wall between Ajmeri Gate and Delhi Gate to allow natural expansion of the city but it was resisted by the authorities, who felt this would expose the 'slums' of the area to New Delhi.

The issue of Delhi's congestion was raised repeatedly in the Legislative Assembly by freedom fighter Asaf Ali. As a result, a Delhi Improvement Trust was formed in 1937, under the chairmanship of AP Hume. "The trust developed plans like Jhandewalan scheme, Roshanara city extension, northern extension etc.," said AK Jain, author of 'Lutyens' Delhi'. "Roop Nagar and Kamala Nagar in north and Shahdara in trans-Yamuna area were developed. Daryaganj, which housed army barracks, was also developed," he said.

The contours of New Delhi also changed with the advent of the Second World War in 1939. New industries came up to cater to the needs of war and with it came migrant labourers. Hutments came up near the Secretariat for war-time offices.

A few years later, housing for government employees also came up in the Lodhi Colony area. Bungalows for senior officials were built in the nearby Lodhi Estate area.

First Published: Sep 01, 2011 00:12 IST