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Is Connaught Place crumbling after grand makeover done for 2010 Commonwealth Games?

Incident took place in building that houses iconic Jain Book Agency. The shopping arcade was restored ahead of the CWG in Delhi. The New Delhi Municipal Council, however, says that it was only restricted to the facade. Shopkeepers say they are on their own when it comes to maintenance and have to take multiple permissions before taking up any repairs.

delhi Updated: Feb 13, 2017 12:59 IST
Ritam Halder
Ritam Halder
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Connaught place building collapse,CP restoration,NDMC
A portion of a building in Connaught Place C-block collapsed at around 2 am on Thursday. (Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo)

What the Britishers built stood tall and fine for decades. But, it is now collapsing in the matter of years after being refurbished.

Constructed in 1933, Connaught Place was named after Duke of Connaught (Arthur, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) to honour him on his visit to Delhi. In 2007, the CP redevelopment was kicked off as a pilot project with the facade restoration of C Block. It was scheduled for completion ahead of the Commonwealth Games in October, 2010. However, it could be finished only in 2013, after missing a series of deadlines and escalation of cost from Rs 76 crore to Rs 671 crore.

The incident of roof and wall collapse on Wednesday raises serious doubt over the work done as part of this redevelopment bid.

Read | Car-fee Connaught Place plan runs into opposition, will take two more weeks

NDMC officials blame lack of maintenance by the owners of these “old structures”.

“In 2009, during the redevelopment bid, only the front facades, pillars and windows were repaired and refurbished. The roof is the individual owners’ responsibility as these are private properties. The whole area was developed, not the roofs,” a council official, who wished not to be named, said.

Officials say prima facie it looks like too much load on the roof and lack of repair work resulted in the mishap.

“We have asked experts from IIT Delhi to conduct a probe. Our structural engineers are also looking into it. At present, it looks like the collapse took place due to overloading on the roof with structures like water tanks and generators. There are also unconfirmed reports of construction work going on at the particular shop,” an engineering department official said.

Surprisingly, no safety inspections are conducted at this Central Delhi hub for around 500,000 visitors daily. The individual owners have been asked to get experts for their respective properties and conduct regular repairs, the official said.

Read | Delhi’s oldest watch shop in Connaught Place burgled, over 600 watches worth Rs 1.35 crore gone

Traders, too, say safety is more or less left to the person who owns or has taken a particular space on rent. “Some people have taken expert help from architects and structural engineers, while others themselves go ahead and do unplanned construction work,” a shopowner, who runs a food joint near the collapse site, said.

They, however, blame the NDMC for not “allowing us to maintain our shops”.

“The property owners are not allowed to maintain their shops. They have to go through multiple processes. Under the Delhi bylaws 6.4.1, every shopowner can maintain his premises, conduct repairs if required,” Atul Bhargava of the New Delhi Traders’ Association said.

“The NDMC has put a stop to it. They say get clearance from the Heritage Conservation Committee. The committee says matters related to the outside structures only should be referred to them. This process needs to be simplified,” Bhargav said.

First Published: Feb 03, 2017 09:04 IST