Delhi’s first car-free day had its share of teething issues and organisational hiccups, with many officials seemingly clueless about the proceedings and some people driving their own cars, ignoring the plea of volunteers at the spot.
At about 9.30 am, once the cycle rally had started and senior officers had left the Red Fort area, everyone from the AAP volunteers to transport department officials seemed unsure of what exactly they were supposed to do.
The contrast was stark on the two ends of the Red Fort. The civil defence and police personnel — present at the entry point of Netaji Subhash Marg — stopped private vehicles and asked them to use “other routes”.
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But at Nishad Raj Marg, where traffic from the Ring Road pours in, only a handful of AAP volunteers and transport department officials could be seen, holding placards and handing out pamphlets.
By 10.30 am, the major traffic flow from Ring Road at Raj Ghat and ITO had begun.
“We have no instructions to actually stop any traffic from entering Nishad Raj Marg from the Ring Road. These are private vehicles; there is nothing in the law that allows us to stop them. We were directed to block the traffic in the morning when the cycle rally was to pass by, but nothing after that,” said the lone traffic police constable sitting under a tree.
The civil defence volunteers at the Red Fort also faced several difficulties, with many people simply driving past them, and others arguing when flagged down.
“What are we supposed to do? We have been told not to let any private vehicles go on this road and ask them to turn towards the Ring Road or other routes,” said Vivek, a volunteer.
“I pay monthly parking at the Parade Ground parking lot. Why should I park somewhere else and pay charges? Don’t the buses and the tourist taxis cause pollution,” argued Sahibabad-based businessman Anil Bajaj, who was stopped on his way to the Gauri Shankar Temple in Chandni Chowk.
When asked to take an alternate route and park “outside”, Bajaj started shouting at the civil defence and police personnel.
“We can only request them. We have no authority to stop them or challan them. These are private vehicles,” said head constable M R Kaushik.
The impact of car-free day was visible to an extent at Daryaganj market, where some of the shop owners used public transport instead of bringing their cars. But most shops in the market were shut due to Dussehra.
Suhail Kapur, owner of a local tea store who had brought his personal vehicle, said the car-free concept could only work if there was better public
“The government should have ensured more publicity for the event,” he opined.
By 11.30 am, when shops began to open and the city started going to work after a late start on Dussehra, the traffic on the Delhi Gate — Red Fort stretch was almost back to “normal”, said Jamshed Ali, a shopowner at Daryaganj.