Starting from December 2013, New Delhi has closed a section of the streets close to the Indian Parliament to allow people to walk freely around the vast vicinity of the India Gate memorial for World War I martyrs
In the New Year, the Boat Club grounds near the India Gate, an arched monument designed by Edwin Lutyens in the heart of New Delhi in memory of the 70,000 Indian soldiers killed in the First World War, were alive with tens of thousands of people. There were no cars around the expansive area as families with children and the elderly walked on the streets peacefully without risking their lives from the notoriously dangerous traffic on the Indian capital’s streets. From December 2013, the Delhi Police has stopped vehicles entering the roads around the India Gate so that families could visit and spend their time at their favourite picnic spot in the city.
The authorities are keeping vehicles off the Rafi Marg where the Air Force headquarters and the offices of the rail, agriculture and industry ministries are located, everyday from 7.30 pm on weekdays and 4.30 pm on weekends and holidays. On major festivals too, the road is closed to traffic from 4.30 pm, making the Boat Club area a pedestrian-only zone.
“We spent the last Sunday at the India Gate lawns and the children were very happy to move around,” says Ashok Jaiswal, a businessman who came with his wife and two school-going daughters. “There were no cars honking and scaring us. This kind of facility to be extended to people in other parts of Delhi too,” says Delhi University student Deepa Aggarwal, who was visiting with her friends.
According to official statistics, Delhi has more than 2.1 million cars, more than the other major Indian cities of Mumbai, Pune and Chennai put together. The mammoth number of cars has led to encroachment of pedestrian space leading to fatal accidents involving walkers and cyclists everyday. India’s Road Transport and Highways Ministry figures say five people died and 18 were injured on Delhi’s roads every day in 2012 in accidents. Recently, top Indian environmental activist Sunita Narain was seriously injured when her cycle was hit by a car near the prestigious All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Delhi’s drivers are also notorious for blaring high decibel horns. Most of the city’s streets have been deprived of pedestrian walkways because of widening to accommodate more cars and where the pavements do exist, cars are blatantly parked on them, pushing pedestrians on to the streets with the traffic.
The Delhi Traffic Police says the move will draw more visitors to the famous city landmark without encountering the crowded roads in the vicinity.