Residents, traders debate Chandni Chowk traffic plan
Residents and traders in the Walled City have raised mixed concerns over the decision to restrict the movement of motorised vehicles in Chandni Chowk. While a section of residents of the area and its neighbourhood agreed with the government to ban cars, two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws and goods vehicles for 12 hours between 9am and 9pm, others said the curbs will make the area less accessible.
Anil Pershad, 75, who belongs to the Chunnamal family, one of the oldest residents of Chandni Chowk, said the ban on motorised vehicles was the “worst thing the authorities could do to the Walled City”. “We are worst affected by the chaos in the area. The restriction will make our life more miserable. The decision was taken without a discussion with the stakeholders. Only a handful of people are living in Chandni Chowk. Instead of taking measures to provide them relief, the government is forcing us to leave the place,” Pershad said.
On Monday, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal approved a plan to reserve the 1.5-km stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Mosque for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles (NMVs).
Praveen Shankar Kapoor, secretary of Chandni Chowk Nagrik Manch, said the government should explore other alternatives to improve traffic movement in the area as previous attempts to make city markets ‘pedestrian-only’ have failed.
“Instead, the authorities should strictly enforce court orders, which does not allow loading or unloading of goods during the day. Traffic police must crack down on illegal parking on main carriageways. One-way traffic circulation plan will help reduce mess in Chandni Chowk,” he said.
Kapoor has also written a letter to Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Member of Parliament from Chandni Chowk, seeking his intervention in the matter.
“The no-vehicle zone concept has failed in several markets such as Sarojini Nagar, Greater Kailash, Defence Colony and Khan Market,” Kapoor added.
However, Mohammad Nafis, a resident of Kucha Pandit in Lal Kuan, lauded the decision.
Nafis, who heads a NGO, Youth Service Mission, said, “Only traders and people running businesses are opposing the move. They are not bothered about pedestrians. Illegal parking is a big menace in old Delhi. In connivance with police, the traders keep loading and unloading goods on the road in violation of court orders.”
Another old Delhi resident, Ashok Mathur, who conducts heritage tours, said deployment of traffic policemen at strategic points will resolve all the issues.
“Proper traffic management at four points — Red Fort crossing, Fountain Chowk, Town Hall and Fatehpuri Chowk will end all chaos. There should be proper enforcement of traffic rules. Police should remove illegal parking. Instead of banning cars and other vehicles, these
simple measures will help,” Mathur said.
Responding to the concerns expressed by the residents and traders, Amit Bhatt, director (integrated urban transport), World Resources Institute (WRI), said they were based on perception and not backed by data.
“About 90% cars parked in Chandni Chowk don’t belong to the residents. Outsiders (visitors) leave their vehicles on the road. Similar issues emerged in Istanbul (Turkey). To take residents on board, the government should engage with the community. The other thing is fear among the residents whether the plan will be enforced in right manner or not,” Bhatt said.
Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, however, supported the restriction.
“Our only objection is over the width of the corridor reserved for cycle rickshaws because they are largely responsible for snarls in Chandni Chowk. We are demanding that only licenced cycle rickshaws should be allowed to ply here,” said Bhargava, who is pursuing a court case seeking redevelopment of Chandni Chowk.