The UPA government’s policy to allow shop owners at Connaught Place to carry out minor repairs in their premises has been misused by them to carry out major repairs, causing huge damage to the 100-year-old colonial structures, according to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) officials.
It is only after a part of a building collapsed recently in Connaught Place’s C Block, right above the famous Jain Book Agency, that the NDMC ordered a safety audit of Connaught Place’s colonial structures.
“The UPA government had changed the policy in the last years of its governance, because of which the shop owners did not have to seek any clearance or permissions to carry out minor repairs in the buildings, but taking advantage of this, owners have even started illegally constructing some minor structures and even modifying the structures,” a senior NDMC official said.
The Civil Engineering department of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, along with NDMC’s structural engineers, are conducting a safety audit of Connaught Place’s colonial structures, following which a report will be submitted to the NDMC chairman within 20 days.
NDMC officials have also complained of the rampant and illegal use of the terrace and balcony facilities at Connaught Place buildings by shop owners who have sub-let their shops.
“The shop owners have been illegally using and overloading the terrace with heavy generators, water tanks, heavy drums filled with diesel, among other things, and this has been going on for quite some time now. Some shops even have more than one heavy generators parked on their terrace. The first floors of the CP buildings were made for residential purposes. The structures are very old and have not been made with modern means and technology; therefore, they do not have the capacity to withstand such pressures. These illegal activities have made the buildings very weak over the years,” a NDMC spokesperson told The Sunday Guardian, adding that the changing of interior decorations, electrical wirings, water lines, etc., by different shop owners as per their convenience every now and then, arising out of the continuous letting and sub-letting of these shops, have further damaged the walls of the buildings.
According to norms, the NDMC bars the use of terrace or balconies on any of its heritage buildings for any kind of commercial activities. The NDMC has decided to ban 21 restaurants in Connaught Place from using their rooftops for any commercial activity and has also sent notices to the identified restaurants, which include Lord of the Drinks, Warehouse Café, Vault Café, Farzi Café, Teddy Boy, among many others.
An NDMC spokesperson told The Sunday Guardian, “No commercial activity will be allowed on rooftops of heritage buildings in CP. We will restrict the use of heavy generators and water tanks in the terrace of the buildings here.”