Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit it seems, is building the eighth capital in Delhi. From Indraprastha of the Pandavas to the Lutyen’s Delhi of the British, Delhi has witnessed seven capitals. One wonders if the making of any of them was as chaotic as the present one!
The city is mute spectator to a mega binge of reconstruction that is causing havoc to the city traffic. Every conceivable pavement space is being dug. All the previously laid tiles are being pulled out to be replaced with another set of tiles. The purpose of the exercise is lost on the poor ‘aam aadmi’ who skirts and hops and jumps his way around.
Dikshit is lucky. She does not have to walk the streets of Delhi. The last time she did was for a walking TV interview few years ago. The metro construction, the building activity in the name of Commonwealth Games and the so-called beautification effort of the city for that international event are all being done at the cost of the civic life of people of Delhi. Without any coordination and planning, several arms of the government, Centre and state, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and electricity authority and the water authority are all working separately. With the result that when one heaves a sigh of relief about a work being over, another agency comes to demolish and rebuild. Classic example is that of the newly made road dividers in several areas in South Delhi.
When the blocks were placed and cemented and mud filled for planting trees (this went on for a good three months, with all the construction material ‘stored’ on the road), in came the agency to redo the street light poles. They removed the stone blocks, dug the mud out and have left the debris on the road till the new poles are delivered.
Same is the case with the pavements. Most of them were tiled recently as part of water harvesting. Huge stone slabs were removed and replaced with prefabricated pattern tiles that had space between them for water seeping to the ground. Tonnes and tonnes of these have now been removed and piled up on the road side. The new ones are being downloaded. The old bridges are being strengthened. And all this work is going on at such slow pace that one wonders if any of it would be completed before the Commonwealth Games which is a mere 10 months away.
The dirt and stink in the roads are nauseating. Rivers of urine and pools of spit fill the streets and roads. Despite the swine flue scare the area near the most visited and two biggest hospitals in Delhi—AIIMS and Safdarjung, present an abysmal picture. The bus stands that were made over to look spunky and user friendly are already in a bad shape. The condition of the buses is unmentionable.
Connaught Place ala Rajiv Chowk is in the painful throes of renovation. CP as is fondly called used to be always the jewel in the crown for the city. However many markets came up, CP held a charm for all. But today, one dreads the thought of going anywhere near. There is nothing called walking space there.
The human side of all this is the most heart wrenching. Without proper shelter and space, the poor labourers who are employed in the construction have pitched rag tents. The children are the worst victims. Uncared for, while the parents are working, they crawl and sleep and play in mud and dirt. For want of doing anything better some have taken to begging.
For whatever ills of the city, Sheila Dikshit is used to blaming the multiple authorities governing in the city. It wont do. Congress is in power in the Centre and the state and she is at the helm of affairs and has been there for over a decade now. She should by now know the ills that plague the city and the remedies that they are crying for. It is public knowledge that construction and repair work offer the maximum scope for kickbacks. Even making allowance for that, what is happening now is not pardonable. The least the government could do is to set up some kind of a watch dog of respectable, senior citizens in the city who could apply some pressure on the quality and speed of work being done. If the government does not act now, Commonwealth 2010 will go down in history as one of the most ill organised sports events and the city’s civic scene would be the biggest contributing factor for it.