NEW DELHI: One of the largest wholesale markets in Delhi, Chandni Chowk, underwent a major revamp when the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) and Delhi’s Public Works Department (PWD) collaborated on the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project. The redevelopment project inaugurated in September 2021 by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, encompasses a 1.3 km stretch of red sandstone and granite pavement that runs from the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. This new project aimed at making a more pedestrian-friendly market, decorating the spaces with benches and plants, CCTV cameras to ensure security, no traffic zone for motor vehicles from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, and so on. Unfortunately, today, the majority of the renovations have failed, as seen by an endless number of cycle rickshaws, inadequate sanitation, insufficient police booth infrastructure, half of the street lights not working, and other problems, adding to the woes of both the customers and the shopkeepers.
The Sunday Guardian paid a visit to Chandni Chowk and saw multiple four-wheelers wandering the streets, as well as inadequate cleanliness and no mechanical sweeping in the area. When this correspondent approached some shopkeepers to understand the circumstances, she was told that there had been no maintenance and the public often witnessed four-wheelers on the road. Sometimes, the traffic police are bribed by the four-wheeler owners too.
The correspondent met the president of Chandni Chowk, Sanjay Bhargava, who is making efforts to bring the renovation to its place. He told this paper, “The public have been flouting rules by bringing four-wheelers, in the name of Shishganj Gurudwara, they bring cars and park it in front of the gurudwara. Half of the street lights don’t work and the number of homeless people has been sleeping on the pavements at night.”
He has also written a letter to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, dated 4 May 2022, addressing and listing at least 25 issues that Chandni Chowk has been facing presently. The issues listed are the extinction of horticulture work, boom barriers eroded and broken have not been commissioned, half construction and nonfunctional police posts and booths, 50 street lights are uninstalled and 60-70 lights are not working, and several more. However, he hasn’t received a proper reply or solution to the issues.

Garbage on Chandni Chowk streets.

However, this is not the first time, another letter was addressed to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia dated, 2 March 2022, stating that “The project is incomplete as on date and all the infrastructure created is in bad shape and is slowly getting eroded due to non-maintenance of the services and is getting into a dilapidated state.”
Last year, on 6 October 2021, a surprise inspection took place at 7:30 pm where, the officials found “overcrowding of rickshaws, squatters on footpaths, loading-unloading activity beyond stipulated time, entry of bikes, cars etc during pedestrian-only time, poor cleanliness and sanitation.” To this, Sisodia suggested solutions like, “Each of 17 boom barriers to be activated and secured round the clock to prevent entry of motorised vehicle during restrictive hours (from 9 am to 9 pm) and regulate movement of cycle rickshaws; licence/permits of 400 cycle rickshaws only be allowed in designated lanes only and cycle rickshaws be permitted to stop at designated location only; impose heavy penalties to prevent littering, spitting, illegal hawking etc and ensure strict patrolling by North DMC and Delhi Police; regular mechanised cleaning/washing of the entire streets (including toilets) by the Facility Management Company and so on”
The street was a little crowded with people, however, the pedestrians were happy about the renovation. Gargi, who resides nearby, told this paper, “I have seen the old Chandni Chowk and the new one is definitely better, we can now walk easily and there are a lot of spaces for pedestrians.”
However, the deserted streets are often home to numerous homeless vagabonds. A saree retailer told this paper, “At night, around 11 or midnight you can see the long queue of vendors sleeping on the streets, right now you can see only one or two sleeping here. At night, we have seen several incidents of theft, the situation is indeed better but half of the things are unchanged.” This correspondent didn’t find any traffic police and saw a few cars passing by and happy pedestrians shopping at various stores.