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Masterly ineptitude

Drafters of the Delhi master plan 2041 need to come out of their ivory tower and see how pathetic has been the implementation of the 2021 Plans

Javed has wandered through the lanes of Chawri Bazaar since he was a child. Now a man in his 40s, he says there has been no improvement in the infrastructure. On the contrary, “The streets have got more congested with vehicles and rickshaws”. The development that has been promised for long has not yet hit the streets.

As part of Delhi’s Master Plan 2021, the Walled City which includes Chawri Bazaar was finally supposed to get a complete makeover. In 2018, the major steps towards operationalizing the plans was the sealing drive in the city — the closure of industries in residential areas — and the commencement of the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project. Here, authorities hope to finish the work by March 2020, making the area a first-of-its-kind pedestrian-friendly street market.

But for Chawri Bazaar, the present state of chaos — where workers, buyers, traders and travellers scarcely have room to move without colliding — may last a little longer.

The market has store after store of brass, copper and paper wholesalers, its main lanes crowded with shoppers, stationery porters waiting to move supplies, others taking a rest from the backbreaking labour. The wires hanging above are unmissable and remind one of Medusa’s locks; the narrow lanes scream out a warning that an overhaul is badly needed.

Dipak, who has been working at one of the stores in the area for the past 20 years, harbours fears about safety. “An accident can happen anytime”, he says, pointing at the entangled mess that is a disaster waiting to happen. Another shop employee, Rahul Sharma, who has been working there for over 25 years, says that Master Plans come and go, yet no progress has been felt there except the Metro station.

“We have been hearing about change from the 1990s but nothing has happened. The wires should be pushed underground, the streets should be decongested. We have been getting by the same way for decades”, Sharma remarks. Adding, that now with elections around the corner, a new set of promises will be made.

According to the Master Plan, various proposals for the Walled City took care to retain its overall traditional character, and visually integrate major landmarks to revitalise the past glory. It also wanted that “many areas in Shahjahanabad should be pedestrianised and made completely free of vehicular traffic so as to restore the human scale and convenient living”.

The ideals are lofty. The Plan envisages developing public spaces for recreational uses, declaring MRTS station as pedestrian zones by dealing with them as per specific Urban Design schemes, introducing activities such as traditional / craft bazaar, heritage walk, rides to attract tourists; generating urban culture; reducing degenerative effects of traffic congestion; and rejuvenation and conservation.

With only two years left for the Plan to come to fruition and another one, Master Plan 2041 being thrashed out, it hardly seems plausible that the proposal in its totality can become a reality.

In need of homes

While the Master Plan’s infrastructure bid covers a host of vital needs like roads, flyovers, reconstruction and rejuvenation of areas, it also talks about the redistribution of population.

With the projected population of 230 lakh by 2021, the Master Plan takes note that housing needs would be around 24 lakh dwelling units. Which includes an estimated housing requirement of 20 lakh dwelling units for additional population and backlog of about 4 lakh units comprising of 1 lakh net shortage and the rest by dilapidated and kutcha structures requiring replacement.

It pointed out that around 40% of housing need could be met through redevelopment and upgradation of existing areas of Delhi.

Furthermore, it said that the remainder of 60% requirement would have to be met through 14.4 lakh new housing units to be provided in new areas. It adds that the role of the government “would have to be both as a provider and facilitator”. But friction impeding smooth functioning has been tangible. In an interview in February, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs  Hardeep Singh Puri had blamed the state government for sitting on proposals by the Centre, especially pointing at the “Delhi decongestion plan in 2016”. This reflects the work carried out on the ground.

For now, the homes being provided are sufficient for the requirements of the Capital. In the past also, the quality of homes provided by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has been a bone of contention. In 2014, 11,000 flats were rejected for their size and condition. In 2017 when it tried to re-sell these homes along with other flats in its scheme, people again rejected 6,000 of them which was they then tried to pawn off to paramilitary forces.

Now, in March, more than 10,000 flats in Narela and Vasant Kunj will be put up for sale by the DDA, as part of its 2019 housing scheme. On February 25, the DDA had passed a proposal to sell 10,300 flats in Narela and Vasant Kunj. There are 960 flats for the economically weaker section (EWS) at Narela; 8,383 LIG flats at Narela and Vasant Kunj; 579 MIG flats at Vasant Kunj; and 448 HIG flats at Vasant Kunj.

Reports also say that flats are being constructed in Pitampura, Paschim Vihar, Rohini, Dwarka, Vasant Kunj and Jasola which should be available in 2020.

The DDA also launched its online portal for the land-pooling policy, which it hopes will generate approximately 17 lakh houses. When these homes will be provided and in what condition, will have to be seen.