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Chandini Chowk loses its charm and glitter

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 said on condition of anonymity. The makeover project first got the nod in 2007. It was originally the job of the BJP-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 said. Consultant Abhimanyu Dalal, who was entrusted with the task of preparing the plan five years ago, has lost hope. ‘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 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. ‘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.IANS


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