Around three years of hard work has brought some of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk’s lost glory back. The new look of the bustling market will be unveiled by the Delhi government next month, reports said.
The first phase of the project, which included beautification of the 1.3-kilometre stretch between Red Fort’s Lahori Gate and Fatehpuri Masjid, is now complete. It was the main thoroughfare of the 17th century Shahjahanabad, the capital of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
The project, which started in December 2018, was handled by the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) and the Public Works Department (PWD).
The first phase missed several deadlines due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic among other issues, raising questions on when the rest of the area will get a makeover.
As part of its beautification, the street has been retiled with red sandstone, keeping up with the Mughal-era architecture, punctuated with benches and potted with plants. Besides, pavements have been widened for walkers. Moreover, the primary attraction for shoppers will be a pollution-free stroll across the market, one of the busiest in north India, as the area is a motor vehicle-free zone now. Only cycle rickshaws are allowed.
The steel entry gates of Chandni Chowk have posters that warn motor vehicles against entering the revamped road opposite Red Fort between 9 am and 9 pm or a fine of Rs 20,000 will be imposed.
One can also look at the clear skyline as the mesh of overhead wires has been removed and taken underground. The old water pipelines have been replaced with new ones. The sewerage network has been cleaned and its inner surface re-laid. A dedicated water line has also been created for street fire hydrants kept ready in the busy area.
Gas pipelines have been laid along the entire stretch for the numerous food joints that attract people from all over the world.
Hawking is strictly prohibited, ThePrint quoted Nitin Panigrahi, nodal officer of the project, as saying.
But questions remain…
Permanent stakeholders —shopkeepers, regular commuters, rickshaw pullers, residents and hawkers—have raised several questions concerning the “makeover.”
While business has improved for the cycle rickshaw pullers, the primary concern flagged by shopkeepers, residents, and e-rickshaw pullers is motor vehicle-free zone. A rickshaw puller told ThePrint that now they are the only mode of transport in the area here but they need licences to operate.
With an overrun by rickshaws, commuters find it difficult to enter nearby Chawri Bazar.
Traders are also divided in their opinion. Some say business has improved, while others are unhappy with missing out on customers who use cars.
ThePrint quoted the president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal Sanjay Bhargava as saying that footfall would increase by 60 percent as there won’t be any traffic jam. “Also the air quality has improved.”
The residents, however, want better guidelines for leaving and entering the area in their motor vehicles.
More is needed
Experts say that this is a beautification project, not quite a development project. Some old buildings are in dire need of restoration.
They claim that instead of preserving the old structures, some of them were demolished. Modern showrooms, using metal and glass, have been constructed along the main road.
Others say that the benches along the centre of the road with no shade won't help much, and might create an obstruction for walkers.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)
First Published: IST