Delhi: Chandni Chowk

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Chandni Chowk, Delhi, some facts about the area, The Times of India, Feb 8, 2017


Chandni 'Chauk'

In 1902

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Extracted from:

Delhi: Past And Present

By H. C. Fanshawe, C.S.I.

Bengal Civil Service, Retired;

Late Chief Secretary To The Punjab Government,

And Commissioner Of The Delhi Division

John Murray, London. I9o2.

NOTE: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from a book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to the correct place.

Secondly, kindly ignore all references to page numbers, because they refer to the physical, printed book.

Adjoining the mosque on the east is the Delhi Municipal Hospital, called after Lord Dufferin, by whom the foundation-stone was laid, one of the largest and best organised institutions in the Province. From this the Dariba leads to the Chandni Chauk, upon which it formerly opened through the Khuni Darwazah.

This gate was so-called from the special massacre which took place near it, under the orders of Nadir Shah, and it was through it— opened by the plucky daring of a chaprassi and four British soldiers— and down the Dariba that the 3rd assaulting Column advanced on 14th September 1857 up to the angle which then existed in the street near the Jama Masjid, but had ultimately to fall back.

The portion of the Chandni Chauk frotn the fort, as far as the Dariba, was originally called the Urdu, or military bazar. On the north side of it stands the fine building now occupied by the Delhi Bank, which was once the residence of the Begam Samru.1 It was on the roof of an outhouse of this building that the Manager of the Bank, Mr Beresford, desperately defended himself and his family on 11th May 1857, until overborne by numbers. West of the Dariba came the Phul-ki-Mandi, or Flower Market, up to the Kotwali, followed by the Jauhri, or Jewellers’ Bazar, and Chandni Chauk proper, the name of which was gradually extended to the whole street.

It was originally built with arcades of shops one storey high to the front, the warehouses and residences of the traders being behind these. Unhappily, this once famous eastern street has now hardly anything eastern in appearance about it. At the end of the last century houses had been built both across it and down the centre of it, but these were all removed after 1803.

Further west a fountain and the south-west gates of the Queen’s (Begam) Gardens are reached on the right hand, and the Kotwali, or Police Station, and the Golden Mosque of Roshan-ud-daulah (who was Bakhshi under the Emperor Muhammad Shah, and is remembered as a notorious and successful bribe-taker), on the left.

The front part of the Kotwali has always served the purposes of a police station, but the portion behind was once the residence of a well-known man, Maulana Fakhruddin. In the middle of the bazar in front of the Kotwali were erected gallows, on which many leading mutineers and encouragers of disloyalty and disturbance met their fate after September 1857, including Nawab Abdurrahman Khan of Jhajjar and Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabgarh, and on this spot were exposed the bodies of the three royal princes, one a son and one a grandson of the king, shot by Captain Hodson on 18th September.

The Golden Mosque has an earlier and darker memory, as the place where the Persian invader, Nadir Shah, sat during the massacre of the people of the city in March 1739. The incident is thus described by an historian of the time:— On the morning of the 11th, an order went forth from the Persian Emperor for the slaughter of the inhabitants.

The result may be imagined; one moment seemed to have sufficed for universal destruction. The Chandni Chauk, the fruit market, the Daribah Bazar, and the buildings around the Masjid-i-Jama were set fire to and reduced to ashes. The inhabitants, one and all, were slaughtered. Here and there some opposition was offered, but in most places people were butchered unresistingly. The Persians laid violent hands on everything and everybody; cloth, jewels, dishes of gold and silver, were acceptable spoil.

The author beheld these horrors from his mansion, situated in the Wakilpura Muhalla outside the city, resolved to fight to the last if necessary, and with the help of God to fall at least with honour. But, the Lord be praised, the work of destruction did not extend beyond the abovenamed parts of the capital. Since the days of Hazrat Sahib-Kiran Amir Timur, who captured Old Delhi and ordered the inhabitants to be massacred, up to the present time, A.H. 1151, a period of 348 years, the capital had been free from such visitations. The ruin in which its beautiful streets and buildings were now involved was such that the labour of years could alone restore the town to its former state of grandeur.

[1 Another house of the Began Samru, known as the Barud Khana, or Powder Magazine, is situated in the Churiwalan quarter. It was in this that a terrific explosion took place on the 7th August 1857, and killed a number of the enemy.]

But to return to the miserable inhabitants. The massacre lasted half the day, when the Persian Emperor ordered Haji Fulad Khan, the Kotwal, to proceed through the streets accompanied by a body of Persian Nasakchis, and proclaim an order for the soldiers to desist from carnage. By degrees the violence of the flames subsided, but the bloodshed, the devastation, and the ruin of families were irreparable. For a long time the streets remained strewn with corpses, as the walks of a garden with dead flowers and leaves.

The town was reduced to ashes, and had the appearance of a plain consumed with fire. All the regal jewels and property, and the contents of the treasury were seized by the Persian conqueror in the citadel. He thus became possessed of treasure to the amount of sixty lacs of rupees and several thousand ashrafis; plate of gold to the value of one kror of rupees, and the jewels, many of which were unrivalled in beauty by any in the world, were valued at about fifty krors.

The Peacock Throne alone, constructed at great pains in the reign of Shah Jahan, had cost one kror of rupees, Elephants, horses, and precious stuffs, whatever pleased the conqueror’s eye, more indeed than can be enumerated, became his spoil. In short, the accumulated wealth of 348 years changed masters in a moment.

Proceeding up the Chandni Chauk and passing many shops of the principal dealers in jewels, embroideries, and other products of Delhi handicrafts, the Northbrook Clock Tower and the principal entrance to the Queen’s Gardens are reached. The former is situated at the site of the Karavan Sarai of the Princess Jahanara Begam , known by the title of Shah Begam.

The Sarai, the square in front of which projected across the street, was considered by Bernier one of the finest buildings in Delhi, and was compared by him with the Palais Royal, because of its arcades below and rooms with a gallery in front above. Bernier was of opinion that the population of Delhi in 1665 was much the same as that of Paris, a striking instance of how population follows the court in the East. The gardens must at one time have been extremely beautiful specimens of eastern pleasure retreats, and even now are very pretty. Inside the railings of the street will be placed the Statue of the late Queen Empress of India, presented to his fellow-citizens by Mr James Skinner, a grandson of Colonel Skinner, C.B. Further back are the Municipal Buildings, and a museum with a number of objects of much interest.

In the gardens is also one of the restored stone elephants which stood before the Delhi Gate of the Fort. Through the middle of them runs the channel of the tail of the Western Jumna Canal, the water of which was held up at places along its course in reservoirs.

Continuing down the Chandni Chauk to the end we reach the Fatahpur Masjid, nearly a mile from the Lahore Gate of the fort. This was built by one of the wives of the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650 A.D.; from 1857 till the visit of His Majesty to Delhi in 1876, it was devoted to secular purposes, but was then restored to the Muhammadan community as a place of worship. The eastern portion of the enclosure is occupied by a garden and a tank and some graves; on the western side rises a well-proportioned mosque building, surmounted by a single dome of black and white stripes.

From the front of the mosque one broad street leads along the south side to the Lal Kua Bazar, while the Lahore Bazar, which is the principal grain market of Delhi, leads past the north side to the Lahore Gate of the city. The road to the right leading along the west end of the Queen’s Gardens takes us to the main road from the Railway Station to the Kabul Gate, and turning to the right short of this crosses the Dufferin Bridge to the Mori Gate and the Civil Station, outside the northern wall of the city.

The fine, native house on the left of the main road across the canal, now occupied by the Cambridge Mission, was once the mansion of Nawab Safdar Jang and the Nawab Wazirs of Oudh.

Huge British era drain found in 2019

Vibha Sharma, August 14, 2019: The Times of India

The 5-foot-wide brick barrel drain line is expected to fix the area’s flooding problems
From: Vibha Sharma, August 14, 2019: The Times of India

It was almost like discovering hidden treasure. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) recently stumbled upon a massive British-era sewer line in Chandni Chowk that is now being seen as a permanent solution to the area’s waterlogging problem.

DJB knew about a defunct, 1.2km-long line but officials believed it was a smaller, more recent drain. The agency decided to renovate it as part of work on sewer lines under the Shahjahanabad redevelopment project. That was when they made the stunning discovery — it was a fivefoot-wide, brick barrel drain line, unmistakably from the Raj period, running from Red Fort to Fatehpuri mosque.

The discovery fuelled rumours in the area that DJB had hit upon an “underground tunnel”. Officials have dismissed all such talk.

British-era drain is 98% choked, says official

Officials said work on this peripheral line started after funds were sanctioned by the Delhi government. The drain, located on southern side of Chandni Chowk market, had been dysfunctional for years.

“The civic agency was expecting it to be like other sewer lines of maximum 750 mm diameter. In fact, they got funds sanctioned from the SRDC Board (Rs 5.5 crore) accordingly. But days after de-silting and rehabilitation work started in June, everyone was surprised to see this huge line (5.4 feet or 1,650 mm wide) below the Chandni Chowk market,” said Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal.

“It was choked so badly that the Delhi Jal Board had to engage a tanker for carrying silt collected after cleaning every three metres of the line,” Bhargava added.

He said the civic agency has now applied to the Board for revising the budget for the pipeline’s renovation.

Officials said sewer lines no bigger than 4 feet are generally laid below arterial roads. “There’s no doubt that is massive drain was constructed during the British era. Considering that both sewer and storm water drains flows together in Chandni Chowk, this line will help resolve problem of waterlogging on the interior lanes of the area,” said a senior DJB official.

He added that the process for preparing an action plan for a separate storm water drain and sewer line might be taken up in future.

“We had renovated a 750mm sewer line below Chandni Chowk’s central verge 12 years back. We initiated work on this dysfunctional drain to take some load off the other line. The British-era line connects with the truck line near Red Fort. It was 98% choked,” said the official.

The DJB is now focusing on rehabilitation of this pipe using thin, polymer liners. “We are using cure-in-place pipe (CIPP) technology which would keep this line functioning for decades. The technology will help create another line within the existing sewer without the need for any excavation work. Also, it will help restore the wear and tear that has taken place in the system,” he said.

Work on a total stretch of 400m — from Red Fort to Dariba and Fatehpuri to Ballimaran — has already been completed. “Rehabilitation of remaining portion will start after Independence Day,” said a trader.

Cure-in-place pipe technology is being used keep the pipeline functioning for decades. This technology will help create another line within the existing sewer without need for any excavation

2021: A second coming

Amin Ali, Sep 26, 2021: The Times of India

Chandni Chowk was an abyss. All romantic tales about the historic area were just a mirage, at least in modern times. Anyone who visited the much-talked-about shopping esplanade dealt with deafening traffic noise, unbearable pollution, unending crowds, roads in bad shape and dangerous power lines overhead. This was a locality on the verge of collapse. It needed immediate attention. That is exactly what it got.

Cut to the present day. The stretch from Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir till Fatehpuri Masjid is a sandstone-paved pedestrian way on which motorised vehicles aren’t permitted between 9am and 9pm. The central section of the avenue has benches and greenery demarcations, small pillars line the street on either side, no livewires hang over the head, neither is there traffic congestion. New signboards identify the kuchas and galis, the lanes, and make navigation easy.

Prominent landmarks on the 1.3-km stretch, including Gurdwara Sisganj Sahib, Central Baptist Church and Town Hall, now are unobstructed from view and the hole-inthe-wall eateries have emerged from their anonymity forced on them by the earlier crowding. Years of neglect and unplanned growth had made these inaccessible, as also everything else that the original retail hub of Shahjahanabad had to offer — from a cycle market on Esplanade Road, an electronics hub at Lajpat Rai Market and Bhagirath Palace, apparel retail stores at the katras, jewellery at Dariba to footwear and spectacles at Ballimaran.

What one would have ideally loved to see are the adjoining areas getting a facelift at par with the main boulevard. The entrance to Chandni Chowk is still congested, while Nai Sadak, Dariba and Ballimaran are still their dilapidated selves. Paranthe Wali Gali and the katras are pictures of neglect and crumbling infrastructure. Katra Neel has three unique temples but they still lie hidden behind the apparel stores, while Fatehpuri Masjid is as good as forgotten in this redevelopment exercise. The few toilets are far from each other and TOI saw no emergency vehicle in sight should a medical emergency arise. Rickshaw pullers too are not regulated and as a result, there’s a crowd at the intersections.

Despite these shortcomings, the redevelopment that took over two years is well worth it. The historic street may still be a far cry from its original glory, but now it offers a novel experience even for those who have walked its length numerous times before.

Pandit Ved Parkash Lemon Wale 'banta’

The Times of India, Oct 17 2015

Sujith Nair

Regulars swear by the thanda tanginess of VedParkashbantawala's vintage lemon-soda

They have been quenching Delhi's parched throats for over a century, serving banta from a distinct green-coloured shop in the heart of Chandni Chowk. The makers of the vintage `PanditVedParkash Lemon Wale' banta have, over the years, seen their customers arrive on tonga and trams and, today , in Toyotas at their shop opposite Town Hall.Everyone gets a warm smile and a bottle or a glass of their favourite fizzy drink. The owner, Chand Bihari Sharma, 55, better known as Cheenibhai, is not the only one in the banta business; the other four Sharma brothers work as bottlers or retailers. Cheenibhai gets his banta from elder brother Shankar's bottling facility in Shahdara. Their third brother, Chetan, manages the shop during the day . Sunil, the fourth one, has a bottling facility in Wazirabad and supplies to the youngest, Sanjay, who has a banta shop in Old Delhi's jewellery hub at Dariba. The gunshot sound of the marble hitting the Codd neck and the sharp fizz that follows is music to the ears of the regulars, who often don't stop with a single shot of banta.The drink can be had straight from the bottle or in a glass, with a squeeze of lemon, crushed ice and masala. “Our masala makes us stand out from the other bantawallas,“ says Cheenibhai's son, Prince. “My mother prepares it at home with 12 ingredients.“ The recipe has jeera and kala namak, which help soothe the tummy after a generous helping of bedmi or bhatura. Bharat Kumar Sharma, 58, a former Old Delhi resident, says he has been visiting VedParkashbantawala since childhood. He prefers jeera masala soda, sold at Rs 10 a bottle. He stays in Panipat but says he often get an “itch“ to visit PuraniDilli. Cheenibhai says he wants to con inue with the unique Codd necks (glass bottles with a marble in the neck) till their supplies dry out.But easy-to-refrigerate crown bottles and the lighter pet bottles are slowly replacing the Codd necks. Arora Lemon, a major lemon-soda supplier to the city, has in the past few years started selling banta in pet bottles a s we l l a s C o d d necks. Deewansh Arora, 24, whose grandfather set up the bottling facility in Tagore Garden in the early 1980s, says Codd necks have an old-world charm but they slow down the supply chain as there are fewer bottles in circulation. Sitting in the food court of a plush mall in West Delhi, Arora talks of moving with the times and their plans to supply masala sachets with pet bottles of banta this Diwali.

On the other side of the city, Prince, too, is firming up his Diwali plans -giving his shop a fresh coat of paint in the same shade of green that his great grandfather used.

Civic issues


Mayank Manohar, Chandni Choke in time warp, March 23, 2017: The Times of India

The narrow lanes are congested, the drains are choked and dhalaos are overflowing and what could have become a quaint, historical quarter of the capital lies hidden behind ugliness.This is Chandni Chowk, and it never changes despite big promises in every election campaign. Now with the four existing municipal wards in the Chandni Chowk assembly constituency reconfigured into three, even the sitting councillors are confused. Will this have post-poll repercussions for the Chandni Chowk wards?

During delimitation, Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk wards were retained, but Kashmere Gate ward was dissolved and a part incorporated into Chandni Chowk, while Majnu ka Tila ward was expanded with the remaining parts of Kashmere Gate and renamed Civil Lines.“The maximum portion of my ward was merged with Chandni Chowk and the rest with Civil Lines,“ worried Harsh Sharma, sitting councillor of Kashmere Gate in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. With the ward he nursed no longer existent, he seemed clueless about where he stood a chance for re-election in April.

In any case, the record of the councillors doesn't impress anyone. Layak Ali of Jama Masjid ward waved his arms to indicate the cramped lane leading to the interiors of his colony . “Even an auto rickshaw cannot fit on this road, and it is the same everywhere in the ward,“ he said.He cited unauthorised construction, encroachment by hawkers and accumulated garbage as the reasons for the choked thoroughfares. “Nothing changes here,“ he concluded dolefully .

There were grand multi agency plans to redevelop Chandni Chowk, with the area being pedestrianised, the road infrastructure improved and utilities, including overhead electricity wires, confined to an underground tunnel. But not a single step has been taken in this direction. The Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal has futilely petitioned the government several times to ban cars in Chandni Chowk, said its general secretary Sanjay Bhargava. “Instead of Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk required to be pedestrianised,“ Bhargava insisted. He alleged that though the north corporation collected money through conversion charges and parking, development was hit by “mismanagement of funds“.

A councillor gets Rs 50 lakh every year under the local area development fund, but one cannot espy any projects of the sort in the Jama Masjid ward. Khurram Iqbal, the incumbent councillor, pleaded that a large portion of the funds under his control lapsed in 2015-16 due to the treasury woes of the civic body .“The corporation could not pay contractors, so they went on strike, leaving the councillors unable to deploy their funds for development work in the wards,“ explained Iqbal. “In 2016-17, we got only Rs 25 lakh as area development fund.“ The local councillors of Chandni Chowk and Majnu ka Tila wards were not available for a comment. If one area in the assem bly constituency has benefited, it is Civil Lines -earlier the Majnu ka Tila ward -and that because it is home to the chief minister and top government officials. But even here, there is uneven development. “Civil Lines has all the civic amenities, but in areas like ours, the colony roads are in disrepair and the dhalaos remain uncleared,“ said Ajit Singh, a resident of Majnu ka Tila. He doesn't think the coming polls will change things. After all, he points out, “No political leader ever visits this place even for inspections.“

Heritage Trees

As in 2020

Priyangi Agarwal & Jasjeev Gandhiok, September 9, 2020: The Times of India

From: Priyangi Agarwal & Jasjeev Gandhiok, September 9, 2020: The Times of India

Heritage Trees Up Against The Wall

At HC’s Behest, Authorities Will Preserve 24 Age-Old Trees Of Chandni Chowk. TOI Takes A Walk Through The Congested Lanes To Sample 10 Of Them

Like an ancient elephant condemned to lie forever still, its body in one structure, its trunk reaching out past the walls of others, this oddly twisted tree in Chhata Madan in old Delhi adds to the drama of life in the tiny lanes. People bustle around the temple there, the peepal tree alone remains frozen, its base now a part of a temple. One wonders then: what came first, the tree or the houses?

This peculiar remnant of a nonurban past is one of 24 trees in Chandni Chowk area that Delhi High Court has ordered preserved. The presence of these old trees only came to light recently after a Nai Sadak resident Nitin Gupta complained to the court that unauthorised construction was damaging a banyan tree. During the course of the litigation, the court learnt of two dozen trees that vie with humans for living space, often sharing the same territory.

When a TOI team visited Chandni Chowk on Tuesday, they found the bases, trunks and bases of most of these trees entwined in man-built structures. The branches of some twisted through the houses, many had their bases imprisoned in concrete, and gods and goddesses nestled among the trunks of others. A banyan tree near Jama Masjid had even become a convenient perch for CCTV cameras.

The forest department and North Delhi Municipal Corporation, directed by the high court to plan their protection, responded in an affidavit that freeing the trees of their cement fetters could affect the stability of the buildings. There’s a peepal at Chhata Madan cheek-by-jowl with a fivestorey building. House owner Dineshwarnath Kedar, 72, disclosed to TOI, “I showed the surveyors who had come how there was no space to demolish the structure built around the tree.” The septuagenarian claimed that tree was around 250 years ago and predated the two-floor house his father built in 1914. He added the other floors around three decades ago. Clearly, the tree in this case had come first.

While tree activists like Padmavati Dwivedi said the concrete fixtures damaged the roots and left the tree unable to breath and absorb water, deputy conservator of forests Aditya Madanpotra pointed out managing the trees in such crammed localities was a unique challenge. “Some of the trees cannot be fully freed because they now have branches going into nearby buildings. They have become part of the surroundings and doing anything could make them unstable,” said Madanpotra.

In 2013, the National Green Tribunal had expressly prohibited the use of tree trunks for signboards, nameplates, advertisements and electricity wires, with violations punishable with a fine of Rs 10,000. NGT also prescribed a 1-metre free space around a tree to allow it to have room to grow and receive enough water.

After a survey, Madanpotra said the oldest of the trees was a banyan at Nai Sadak calculated to be around 250 years old. “We plan to fence the area around the trees and install boards displaying the name, age and important of the trees to the locality,” he added.

Verhaen Khanna, founder of New Delhi Nature Society, who is active in de-concretizing trees in the city, rued that despite the existing laws, trees still suffered. “The forest department does not remove the cement from the bases or fine violators,” alleged Khanna. “And when you approach agencies like PWD, DDA or the municipal corporations, they remain inactive unless a court directs such actions.”

A north corporation official responded, “We need help from the forest department on the matter. Also, our areas incharge are pursuing matters with religious committees about trees fall in the jurisdiction of places of worship.”


As in 2019

Atul Mathur, August 8, 2019: The Times of India

The 20-metre stretch, which will give a glimpse of what the central vista will look like after redevelopment, is still being readied.
Photo- Rajesh Mehta
From: Atul Mathur, August 8, 2019: The Times of India

Chandni Chowk gets a new look, but may miss I-Day show

Atul Mathur

New Delhi:

Officials said the 20-metre stretch, which will give a glimpse of what the central vista of the heritage market of Chandni Chowk will look like after redevelopment, is still being readied.

Delhi government has fixed March 2020 as the deadline to complete the redevelopment of the 1.3km stretch between Red Fort and Fatehpuri Mosque, the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) had proposed to open a small stretch by Independence Day to give residents and traders an idea on how the road will look once completed.

Though the public works department (PWD), which is executing the project for SRDC, has constructed the central road, built the sidewalks, installed boulevards and benches, beautified the area with greenery and fixed lights.

The redevelopment of the central vista of Chandni Chowk, from Red Fort in the east to Fatehpuri Masjid in the west, includes widening of footpath, shifting of electricity and water lines underground, reconstruction of the median to accommodate transformers, installing of police booths, public conveniences and CCTV monitoring kiosks and street furniture. Only non-motorised vehicles will be allowed on the road between 9am and 9pm. The project is estimated to cost Rs 65 crore and scheduled to be completed by January 2020.

Sources said the board has also decided to go ahead with its original plan to place power transformers on the central verge, which was opposed by the Delhi Urban Art Commission. Both the Delhi Fire Services and the traders had opposed DUAC’s suggestion to shift the utilities from central verge to lanes and bylanes in the vicinity.

“The board members have unanimously resolved not to shift electrical units from the median. The decision will be conveyed to the lieutenant governor soon. On the directions of Delhi high court, LG Anil Baijal had asked SRDC to find a way ahead for the redevelopment project, after a crucial meeting of stakeholders last month remained inconclusive.

Sources said SRDC’s consultant will explore the possibility of reconstructing the iconic clock tower, which had partially collapsed in 1951 and was demolished subsequently. “Minister Satyendar Jain and Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba suggested reintroducing the tower with a turret clock in the iconic market. The minister also suggested rebuilding the clock tower at the same place where it previously stood in front of the Town Hall,” said an official. “The consultant will now explore the possibility if this was possible in the congested market.”

Town Hall: 1860-c.2010

Paras Singh, December 19, 2020: The Times of India

The old Town Hall in Chandni Chowk
From: Paras Singh, December 19, 2020: The Times of India

Inauguration plaques bearing the names of Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, a message from Mahatma Gandhi, oil portraits of national figures, even a symbolic key to the capital once ritually handed over to the new mayor — these artefacts make Town Hall a time-capsule capturing the story of Delhi’s development into a megapolis. But sadly, time seems to have stopped in Chandni Chowk for the pale yellow Victorian building with arched windows and Ionic pillars. Around a decade ago, it ceased to be functional, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation deserting it for the swanky SP Mukherjee Civic Centre on the Minto Road. And while the occupancy of the new building is at the centre of the ongoing rent controversy, the 150-year-old Town Hall remains unoccupied.

In the last decade, there were several proposals from the north corporation, which inherited the complex after the trifurcation of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 2012, to redevelop the emblematic complex variously into a museum, craft bazar, light-and-sound show site, boutique hotel, food court, library, even a hotel. But it continues to wallow in disuse. And it is slowly crumbling, its windows and doors hanging loose on the hinges, the old furniture under termite attack and its roofs leaking.

Is the building going to get a new lease of life? A north corporation official announced that the structure’s redevelopment has been cleared by the civic body’s councillors. It will then be leased for a minimum reserve price of Rs 23.1 crore per year to suitable bidders. The civic body’s annual budget for 2020-21 recently said that the draft auction document to lease the Town Hall complex on license basis was in the final stage. The area at the historic complex that is open for redevelopment is 13,735 sq metres. “Broadly, this can be divided into three sections: main building, courtyard and press building,” the official informed. “Since the building was erected using construction material from the mid-colonial era, like stones, lime plaster, burnt bricks and timber, it requires structural strengthening and refurbishing.”

The place where the complex stands today was once a garden and a sarai, the former created by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jahanara, and the latter, a guest house for important visitors and wealthy Persian traders. The construction of the present building started in 1860 and was completed three years later. Initially, the Lawrence Institute housing the Delhi College of Higher Studies, it was bought by the then municipality in 1866 for Rs 135,457.

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