In the early 80's, Bhagwan Dass used to steal Rs 1.25 from his mother's cupboard and sneak out to watch the morning show at Novelty Cinema, a stone's throw away from his house in Chandi Chowk.The movie goers would stand for hours in serpentine queues, bargaining over tickets with the touts, who made Rs 600 a day by selling movie tickets in black.
In 2000, the oldest theatre in Old Delhi shut down, and now wears an abandoned look with homeless men sleeping in their drunken stupor, and street vendors encroaching the area. This theatre is currently owned by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), and is one of the many properties that were supposed to be redeveloped.
The MCD officials had in countless ward committee meetings promised to revive the theatre but kept sitting on the proposal. The residents of Old Delhi not only lost their source of entertainment but also lost their cultural identity as many of their historical landmarks remain in a dilapidated condition.
Pradeep Gupta, Councilor North MCD, has told this paper that the MCD had proposed several redevelopment plans for the Town Hall and Mahila Haat, but not one brick has still been laid.
"There are several properties in prime locations around Old Delhi, which can generate revenue running into several crores but the MCD does not want to redevelop them. Five years ago they invested several hundred crores into the Mahila Haat, which is in a dilapidated condition. Properties like Novelty cinema and the Shehnai Banquet near LNJP hospital can generate several crores in revenue but there is no progress in the redevelopment".
When contacted by millennium post, the MCD officials told this paper that many of the properties mentioned have run into legal hurdles. In some cases the previous lessons have not transferred their properties and have gone to court over the issue and sometimes they die without naming any heirs, further complicating the case.
However, a highly placed source in the North MCD said, "The top politicians along with the senior officers don't transfer the lease for an extended period of time. They keep transferring the lease among themselves and the project gets delayed for years. In this delay, the corrupt officials strike deals among themselves like constructing extra floors. It is a money-making machine".
With the old properties in a dilapidated condition, the private contractors in cahoots with top MCD officers, have authorised the construction of unauthorised commercial structures. Sources have told Millennium Post that in the last ten years unauthorised construction has picked up.
"If you look at the sanctioned plans to the unauthorised plans it is a 1:10 ratio. The MCD officials know about this but do nothing to stop it. Old buildings are being razed to make way for new ones. No wonder that the residents of Old Delhi have started migrating to Outer Delhi" said the source.