Opinion – No Rickshaws in Chandni Chowk
City planners have lost it.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Each morning my news-obsessed papa says this country is going to the dogs. I say this city is going to the dogs. It’s a hot afternoon and I’m in Chandni Chowk. Gurdwara Seesganj Sahib is in front of me; Jain Mandir is close by, and Jama Masjid not far. So holy a place and yet no peace.
The noise; the crowd; the chaos. I seek the quiet of Fatehpuri Masjid, at the other end. But I have no car. I don’t want to walk. Auto-wallas are not interested in such short rides. And, oh, no rickshaws here. They have been banned from plying in this ‘moon-lit’ bazaar. Say thankyou to Delhi High Court. I love it a little less now.
In 2007, the court realized it were actually rickshaws that create traffic jams in Chandni Chowk. So, in May that year, it banned the pedal-powered three-wheelers here. By June, lathi-weilding thullas started chasing away any rickshaw-walla sighted in the avenue. It’s now 2008 and I’m missing those rickshaws.
All right, the ever-thoughtful MCD did introduce green-colored, CNG-powered “environment-friendly” buses to help people commute. But they are stuffed tight like caged chickens I see at Ballimaran butcheries. I will rather walk.
The side lanes are jammed with shoppers and salesmen. The roadside is slippery with slush and dung. The road is hit by a…traffic jam! Isn’t the evil rickshaws out? No, the honorable court is never wrong. Removing rickshaws was a right step. Perhaps more judicial activism is required: cars, autos, buses, and even people too should be banned. Then there won’t be traffic jams (why, the same principle could be applied to the Ring Road too).
But this is not only about my comfort. I can always return to my flat in the suburbs and to my job in a skyscraper. Spare a thought for rickshaw-wallas whose incomes have reduced to half. They were made to play no role in a decision that affected them the most. “No one came to explain the order,” a rickshaw-walla told me. They were simply shooed off. Papa is right. The country has gone to the dogs.