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Experts slam plan to construct five-foot fence around Delhi’s iconic India Gate

A high fence would mean entry to lawns around the monument would only be through radial roads.

delhi Updated: Sep 29, 2018 07:24 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
fence,India Gate,monument
Of the six parks inside the C-hexagon area, three are getting fenced as part of the work on the war memorial; one is the children’s park, which is already fenced. The remaining two, adjacent to Rajpath and often used by pedestrians to enter the monument, will now also get fenced. (Biplov Bhuyan/HT Photo)

A five-foot high fence will separate the pavement along the C-Hexagon at India Gate and the parks inside it after renovations meant to give ‘a more uniform design’ are completed, an exercise that experts said will severely restrict how people access the capital’s most popular public attraction.

The C-Hexagon surrounding the India Gate has six parks in all: three of them are being taken up for the National War Memorial; the fourth is a children’s park that already has a boundary, and the remaining are the two parks that face the front of the India Gate, towards the Rajpath – a section from where most visitors freely move in an out.

“A large part has been taken up for the construction of the war memorial. To ensure uniformity in design of the area (with the war memorial section), it was decided to construct a fence on the two parks,” a senior CPWD official aware of the development said, asking not to be named.

The war memorial will be fenced due to security reasons and to keep out hawkers, said a second official, who belongs to the central government, which is handling the project. The official asked not to be named. Once all fencing work is completed, the access to the C-Hexagon parks will be through the six radial roads that lead to the Canopy.

Reacting to CPWD’s explanation that the fence was meant to provide uniformity in design, Arunava Dasgupta, the head of urban design at the School of Planning and Architecture, said: “We don’t need uniformity in all public spaces and there are many more creative ways in which we can sensitively design edges of such spaces than putting a fence.”

According to Dasgupta, the India Gate area was designed by the British as an open public space. “Fencing India Gate and its precinct is one of the most audacious and undemocratic moves this city has witnessed in all these years of post-independence development and no amount of frivolous excuses of controlling crowds and hawkers can hide this fact. These two parks and the area around India Gate are visited by lakhs of people all across the country,” he said.

Another expert reiterated that the area was meant to remain an open space. “Open spaces, especially in large areas like the C-Hexagon, make it easier for pedestrians to move around. It is a serious problem if public spaces are enclosed. It affects the quality of life. India Gate is one of the few recreational spaces in the city which is inclusive as it is visited by people from all walks of life,” said Swapna Liddle, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage’s Delhi chapter.

A third expert called the exercise “anti-people”. “It is a perfect example of inclusive spaces... Fencing the space is certainly anti-people and against the spirit of the place,” said KT Ravindran, urban designer and former Delhi Urban Art Commission chairperson.

First Published: Sep 28, 2018 23:50 IST