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Chandni Chowk residents bear the brunt of civic apathy

Chandni Chowk residents bear the brunt of civic apathy
In the 17th century, when Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan decided to develop Chandni Chowk in Delhi, he deputed his daughter Jahanara with the task of designing the market to realise the emperor's grandiose designs.

The market was divided into several canals to reflect the moonlight, thus earning the name Chandni Chowk or 'Moonlight Square'.

In 2017, the market has become a spitoon in Old Delhi, as the narrow winding lanes are etched with paan stains and garbage strewn around the area.

The lackadaisical attitude of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has resulted in a lack of toilets for traders and customers, who stand in serpentine queues for hours outside the makeshift toilets.

In Chandni Chowk's famous Paranthe Wali Gali, Barbora, a Slovekian, had not prepared for the visual assault on her senses from the garbage and putrid stench of urine. "It smells. There are different kinds of smells in the market, but I never expected this," said Barbora.

Traders in the market believe that the dirty lanes have now taken its toll on the tourist population. "We used to have foreigners from several countries. Now the crowds are dwindling. We used to have several tourists from USA and UK. Now, we just have 15-20 foreigners coming to this lane every day," said Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, an eatery owner.

The traders open their shops around 11 am; however, the Safai Karamcharis sweep the lanes early in the morning around 6 am. This is the only time they sweep the market and don't turn up for their next shift.

"Even thought the MCD has biometric attendance, the Safai Karamcharis have managed to bypass it. They mark their attendance in the morning and later in the afternoon; nobody checks what they do in their shift," said Ashok Khanna, a social activist based in Chandni Chowk.

With the upcoming MCD elections many of the lanes have been cleaned up, but for residents this is an eye wash.

There are virtually no toilets in Chandni chowk, barring a few makeshift toilets which have been rendered unusable. Women have to relieve themselves in discreet locations, while their relatives keep a watchful eye.

"The MCD workers were supposed to use water jets to clean the toilets but I have not seen them using it. The (Delhi) Jal Board does not supply water to these toilets due to the legal hassles arising out of multiplicity of authorities," said Pradeep Gupta, Councilor, North MCD.
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