The Delhi High Court has directed engineers of the South MCD to travel on Vasant Vihar’s footpaths on a wheelchair without any aid or assistance to check their usability.
“This will test the efficacy of the SDMC’s efforts to make the streets and footpaths user friendly. While freedom of movement is a constitutional guarantee, it should not be hemmed-in by the lack of requisite civic amenities,” said Justice Najmi Waziri in an order.
Justice Waziri said citizens need to be empowered and facilitated in the enjoyment of their constitutional rights and for that provision of basic civic amenities is essential. The court said basic amenities include a safe and secure neighbourhood, tree-lined avenues and footpaths, “where an endeavour of a leisurely stroll is actually a pleasurable exercise and not an obstacle-dodging, harrowing experience”.
The court said the obstacles would discourage walking to the neighbourhood places and people would instead use motor vehicles which would only add to the “city’s ever-burgeoning traffic congestion and unmitigated air pollution”.
“So, it all starts with taking care of the neighbourhood trees and greenery and ensuring that the footpaths winding through the tree-shaded avenues are obstacle-free. Let this exercise be carried out preferably before the next date,” said Justice Waziri, while listing the matter for the next hearing on November 26.
The court has passed the order on a contempt petition which alleged that the area around hundreds of trees in Vasant Vihar has been concretised and sought their preservation.
On November 15, the court was told that the SDMC has made efforts to take corrective steps in this regard.
The SDMC also assured the court that efforts will continue to be made to have clear footpaths for all users. Delhi Police submitted that assistance will be provided to remove obstructions on the footpaths.
“It is agreed by all parties that removal by the SDMC of encroachments including concrete ramps from the footpaths, will facilitate movement in the colony of the elderly, children and the wheel-chair bound. Let remedial measures be initiated in right earnest. All concretisation beyond the road and the walking paths laid by the MCD/ PWD, shall be removed from the earth, no matter how deep the concrete is,” the court said in the order.
The court also directed that a senior officer of the PWD shall coordinate with the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, SDMC, and remain present at the site on all dates when the exercise of removal of encroachments and restoration of trees is undertaken.