Delhiwale: NDMC privileges
You must have come across this signage: “NDMC Limit End”
This board demarcates the limits of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) zone, which has some of India’s most expensive real estate, like in Amrita Shergil Marg. Some of the country’s most important people, including the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and ambassadors of powerful nations, reside in the NDMC zone.
This evening, a man is sleeping on the pavement, under one of the aforementioned signs near the New Delhi railway station. A few clothes are strung on a chord clamped on a side wall. It almost looks like a refugee stopped at a border.
Of course, anyone can walk into the NDMC limits. But if the common man is here, it generally is on work. Soon he must exit, perhaps tossing a longing glance at the signboard as he goes.
But what exactly is the NDMC state of mind?
One afternoon, a young woman is walking her cocker spaniels on a tree-lined pavement in the NDMC zone. Waving towards the adjacent DDA (Delhi Development Authority) Officers Colony on Bhagwan Das Road, she says, “My father’s official house.” Identifying herself by her first name only, Divya explains: “We moved here from across the Yamuna. This part of the city is more organized, more quiet, and full of trees.”
The rest of the smoggy metropolis—more than 90 percent of it—comes under the other municipal bodies—namely the Cantonment Board, and (primarily) the three bodies that have replaced the MCD—the South Delhi, North Delhi and East Delhi municipal corporations.
NDMC describes itself on its website as “the territory that has been described as Lutyens’ Delhi”. Its origins go back to the days of our colonizers. It began as the Imperial Delhi Committee, shortly after the British moved the seat of power from Calcutta to Delhi. The name was changed to the New Delhi Municipal Committee in 1927.
Despite teeming with VVIPs, patches of the NDMC also host a kind of populace that does not consist of politicians and bureaucrats. A stroll through its wide avenues takes you past the homeless, the minders of cheap food kiosks, and even some slum-dwellers.
Indeed, sometimes two NDMC neighbourhoods, though physically close to each other, may give the impression of being on different planets. You’ll realise that while ambling through the adjoining localities of BK Dutt Colony and far more upscale Jor Bagh, separated by just a road. The former has narrower lanes and more density of people than Jor Bagh, with its broad avenues and gated mansions guarded by uniformed vigils.
Even so, one knows when one is in an NDMC area. It feels far neater, and some of its parts are so idyllic that they don’t appear to be part of the city the rest of us experience daily.
To deftly witness the city’s disparities, you ought to stroll along the border regions of NDMC someday. And don’t forget to click a keepsake selfie by the signage saying: NDMC Limit End.