Six years on, Chandini Chowk yet to be redeveloped

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) Once known as the silver street and home to poets and musicians, Chandni Chowk in the Indian capital's old quarters is now a nightmare for motorists, residents and the tourists alike. The much talked about makeover plan to restore the area to its Mughal-era glory has been hanging fire for the past six years with the agencies concerned passing the buck to one another.

Now the Delhi government is keen to revive the plan to re-develop the Shahjahanabad area - of which Chandni Chowk is a congested commercial centre that has also the capital's wholesale market - where power cables dangle overhead, dinghy, labyrinthine lanes and choc-a-bloc traffic have marred the original look of the place that was perhaps at its pristine best during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666).

Multiplicity of authorities, confused decision-making and lack of political will are the reasons behind the inordinate delay in reviving the plan, various officials told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The makeover project first got the nod in 2007. It was originally the job of the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled civic agency to re-develop the area, which also houses Asia's largest electronics market, and then the Congress-led Delhi government took it over. Though much water has flown down the Yamuna, the project never took off.

Interestingly, the project was inaugurated twice - including once by cabinet minister Kapil Sibal, who represents Chandni Chowk in the Lok Sabha.

The plan for re-developing the area has also changed from time to time - depending on which agency was handling the project.

"The earlier plan prepared by the consultant suggested prohibiting motor vehicles in the area, but we have changed the plan as it is not possible. We will soon send the changed plan to the Unified Traffic And Transportation Infrastructure for approval," a top official told IANS.

Consultant Abhimanyu Dalal, who was entrusted with the task of preparing the plan five years ago, has lost hope.

"I don't think that the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Project will see the light of day. According to our plan, we were to have a 30-metre-wide road with separate lanes for cyclists, pedestrians and for electric buses," Dalal said.

Dalal rues that "everything looks fancy on paper, but the plan has not been implemented for years".

"We had suggested that the 1.3 km-Chandni Chowk road should be opened for motorists only from 9 p.m. till 9 a.m. How will you be able to bring a semblance of the Mughal era with cars running around the area?" he asked.

The plan envisages four plazas, including one near the 17th century Fatehpuri Mosque.

"A clock tower (near Sisganj Gurdwara) which was badly damaged in an earthquake in around 1930s will be repaired too," Dalal said.

At the moment, the Public Works Department (PWD) is overseeing the project.

According to a top PWD official, heritage lights will be installed in the area and the power cables will be taken underground.

The plan, however, got a thumbs down from the business community.

Confederation of All India Traders' secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said traders have never been involved in the decision-making process. "The plan has been designed by those who sit in air-conditioned offices. There are 150 wholesale markets in the area. How can you not allow vehicles in the area? How will the business of traders run?" Khandelwal asked.

He also questioned the Congress-led Delhi government's decision to re-launch the project.

"Now the government is trying to expedite the process of implementing the plan as the Sheila Dikshit government wants to take credit for it before the assembly elections," he adds. Elections are due in Delhi later this year.

Delhi BJP unit leader Vijender Gupta blamed the "inefficiency" of the government, which he said has led to problems in implementing the revival plan. "It is an ambitious programme but I don't see it getting implemented soon," Gupta told IANS.

Once known for being the cultural hub of Delhi where the city's elite dwelled, the Walled City is crying for attention.

"It is just the apathy of the various agencies that has led to this chaos and confusion. It has become a place where shoppers and tourists are scared to venture. We just hope something is done - and soon," Nishant Jain, a resident who has now moved to a cleaner and better area in Delhi, told IANS.

(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at gaurav.s@ians.in)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »