Jama Masjid zone makeover: Fingers crossed as Old Delhi redevelopment body submits plans
Locals and experts are upbeat over a comprehensive revamp and decongestion plan for Jama Masjid, proposed by the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC). They expect that the plan will be implemented this time, unlike several others which had been proposed but remained in papers only.
The SRDC — a special body constituted to plan and execute redevelopment of Old Delhi — has submitted two plans to the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) for review.
“We hope to get a response from SPA soon,” said a Delhi government official. Rampant encroachments and unbridled illegal constructions around the 360-year-old monument have been on the radar of the authorities for a long time. In the last six months, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal has visited Red Fort, Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid twice — latest on Saturday, and directed that the makeover of the heritage zone must be taken up on priority.
Delhi is hosting ASEAN summit in January and the Centre has asked all agencies to restore monuments and spruce up prominent tourist attractions and markets across Delhi by mid-January. The official said the Centre’s directions will also ensure that the revamp plan is expedited.
Haji Miyan Fayazuddin, who runs a guest house opposite the mosque, said efforts to give the area a facelift were long pending as even local lawmakers and councillors have ignored the area. “Roads are full of potholes along Chawri Bazaar. The historic Urdu Bazar has been turned into a food street. Illegal constructions overrun roads leading to the mosque, not to mention the encroachments by hawkers and illegal parking lots. There is not even space to breathe.. Good that someone is at least thinking to do something now,” he said.
Rana Safvi, author and historian who conducts history walks in the area, said the area desperately needed attention. “The filth and chaos belies the significance the imposing structure carries. It is getting from bad to worse. We hope the plan takes off this time,” she said.
The two plans sent to the SPA are prepared by Pradeep Sachdeva, appointed by the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to draft the plan that proposes relocation of Meena Bazaar and SRDC’s consultant (tourism project) Vijay Singh. As per Singh’s plan, the market should be moved underground (see graphic).
The degradation of the monument and the areas around it was first raised in 2004 through a public interest litigation (PIL) based on which the Delhi High Court asked the authorities to redevelop Jama Masjid and its precinct, spreading over 23 acres. A plan was prepared and approved by the court two years later. However, it could not move beyond papers and meetings. A case regarding the PIL is listed on December 29.
“Once the SPA approves and we get a nod from the court, a committee will decide the further action plan,” the official said.