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Walk at your own risk in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Traders reported a 15% to 20% drop in sales ever since the redevelopment work started on the directions of the Delhi High Court.

delhi Updated: Mar 24, 2019 02:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Chandni Chowk,Chandni Chowk roads,Red Fort
Visitors say little has been done for pedestrians and accidents are waiting to happen as the construction sites have been left open at many places. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Four months into the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk market, people in the locality complain of poor ground management.

While the project, that aims to increase pedestrianisation, has reduced traffic in the heritage market, walking the 1.5 kilometre long stretch between Red Fort and Fatehpuri Mosque continues to be a challenge.

The Delhi government’s public works department, which is implementing the project, has come in for sharp criticism from the local business community as customers find it difficult to walk the stretch.

Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, who has been actively pursuing the redevelopment project, said, “Though the work is going on as per the schedule, it is poorly managed. We have told the PWD several times to put in place measures that ensure safety of pedestrians, but little has been done so far.”

As work on constructing utility ducts for laying underground electric lines, shifting of transformers and installing sewer and water pipelines are underway, barricading becomes essential.

However, when HT visited the market on Friday, it found that the construction sites were not properly barricaded.

Near Sis Gang Gurudwara where the underground ducts are being constructed, the site was barricaded by only two moveable iron barricades. “An accident is waiting to happen here. Iron rods are jutting from the ground and they have not barricaded the area properly,” said Neha, a resident of the area.

In the first phase of the project, work is on to lay the ducts and lines through the central section of the carriageway towards Fatehpuri Masjid. While large parts of the carriageway have been taken up for the work, a small strip of road along the corridor outside shops is left for pedestrian movement. But it is used by two-wheelers for parking.

A view of congested pavement for people to walk at Chandni Chowk in New Delhi. ( Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO )

“They should have levelled the road strip to create dedicate walkways for pedestrians. Entry of two-wheelers should have been banned. It is a free for all here now,” Tarun Chawla, a bank manager, who had come to the gurudwara.

Traders reported a 15% to 20% drop in sales ever since the redevelopment work started on the directions of the Delhi High Court.

Kawal S Chabbra, who runs a business here, is optimistic that the market will get a new lease of life after the revamp work, just like the area around Golden Temple in Amritsar. “But, till then, the authorities ought to do something to minimise inconvenience to visitors,” he said. “When the Delhi Metro carries out construction, they first make adequate arrangement for pedestrians and local traffic. Why can’t it be done here? The sales have dropped by 20% as shoppers find it difficult to navigate in the area due to poor arrangements,” said Chabbra.

PWD officials, however, blame traders for the mess.

“We have created passages at regular intervals on the entire stretch so that traders can transport their goods,” said a senior PWD official who did not wish to be named. “But they all want to load or unload right in front of their shops. Due to this, the barricades are damaged. In some places, steel barricades were stolen and we had to replace. We have filed complaints with the police… We will again get the barricades fixed.”

Meanwhile, traffic continues to be a problem despite a circulation plan in place. Traffic towards Red Fort from Fatehpuri Mosque has been made one-way.

Rambir Bhagat, a constable deployed in the area to manage traffic, said people, especially two-wheeler and e-rickshaw drivers, drive in the wrong direction towards the mosque. “This results in traffic jam on the carriageway. We have issued several challans, but they don’t listen,” said Bhagat.

Work on the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project, which was first conceived in 2006, finally started on December 1 last year on the directions of the Delhi high court. The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), which is main body responsible for the development work in the Walled City, finalised the redevelopment plan last year after several rounds of meetings with all the stakeholders. It was on court’s direction, various stakeholders agreed to give a timeline for completing their part of the work.

PWD is expected to level the streets with pavements to create 6-13 metre wide pedestrian zones along the shops on either side of the road. It will also construct a dedicated lane for non-motorised vehicles on the stretch.

First Published: Mar 24, 2019 02:51 IST