ITO skywalk opened; face-off between Centre, Delhi government continues
While inaugurating the skywalk at ITO in central Delhi, Union minister Hardeep Puri alleged that the state government created roadblocks in providing clearance for the ₹54.84-crore project, a claim that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government rebutted.
The 400-metre-long skywalk at ITO in central Delhi — the construction of which led to the latest face-off between the Centre and the Delhi government, with both claiming stake in the process — was thrown open to the public on Monday. Union minister for housing and urban affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and New Delhi Member of Parliament Meenakshi Lekhi were present at the launch event.
While inaugurating the skywalk, Puri alleged that the state government created roadblocks in providing clearance for the ₹54.84-crore project, a claim that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government rebutted.
“In 2016, we had approved several projects to be taken up under the urban development fund. We had decided that the Centre would provide 80 per cent of the fund, while the rest 20 per cent would be provided by the state government. When I asked why this specific project – the construction of the ITO skywalk – was not moving forward, I found out that it was stuck because the Delhi government had, for a year, not given clearance to agree to pay the 20 per cent of the entire amount,” Puri said, adding that the Union ministry later asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to fund 20 per cent for the project.
“Last year we decided that if Delhi government doesn’t give the necessary clearances, we will go ahead ourselves. We have seen the same pattern for all Delhi government projects,” he said.
Refuting Puri’s claim, the Delhi government said they have spent ₹12 crore on the construction of the ITO skywalk. Delhi government spokesperson Nagendra Sharma said, “Hardeep Puri is either not aware of the facts or he is misleading the public. The project was designed, approved and executed by the Delhi government.”
Earlier in the day, Sharma had tweeted, “Sir please put the concept note, design & funding details of Delhi ITO Skywalk in public domain so that the people of Delhi can decide for themselves.”
Sharma maintained that Delhi Public Works Deparment (PWD) minister Satyender Jain had conducted an open design competition. From the designs that had been submitted, a unique design was selected for the ITO skywalk.
“Almost immediately after that, a PWD secretary appointed by the central government raised objections in the project. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia overruled his objections and provided ₹12 crore for the project. The allegation against the Delhi government that they did not pay their share for the construction of the ITO skywalk is false,” Sharma said.
On Sunday, the Aam Aadmi Party had alleged that the Centre was taking credit for the construction of the skywalk by not inviting anyone from the Delhi government for the launch event.
There are over 25 major offices and institutions at ITO and approximately 30,000 pedestrians cross various roads around the ITO crossing on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest intersections in the country.
Meanwhile, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal said that there needs to be better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. He also noted that city’s underpasses also remain underutilised. “This city has been very cruel to pedestrians and cyclists. In my last meeting with DDA, I’ve told them that they must incorporate a plan for making life convenient for cyclists and pedestrians. I have advised DDA that when they are drafting the 2041 plan, we must match anticipated growth of the city and special infrastructure accordingly,” he said.