By Gaurav Shukla

It was Britain’s addition to the famous bazaars of Delhi during colonial era in 1933, quite different though from the narrow, congested ones of old Delhi. Connaught Place thus over the years became the main commercial hub of the city.

According to the historical texts before Connaught Place was built people from the Walled City, Nizamuddin and Mehrauli used to come here for partridge shooting, for it was a wilderness with a profusion of Babool trees. In 1857 many of the so-called mutineers hid here after escaping from Shahjehanabad via the Delhi, Ajmeri and Turkman gates, until they could escape to the Punjab, Rajputana or the United Provinces.

In these 75 odd years, the British built Connaught Place has lost its sheen and grandeur. So, the upcoming Commonwealth Games have come as a boon for this market. New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) was long planning for a true makeover to bring back lost glory and lustre. As a part of its ‘Return to heritage Project’, the NDMC has prepared a plan to revamp and redevelop this proud landmark of Delhi.

“The idea is to bring the glory back to CP,” says Anand Tiwari of the NDMC. However, everyone does not seem pleased by the renovation work which was completed on the pilot basis in C-Block of CP. “Restoration is a good aim but it’s been terribly executed,” Devinder Khanna, owner of New Delhi Stationary Mart says. “There’s almost no effort in preserving heritage and traditional look of CP,” he added.

‘Return to Heritage Project’ includes provision of heritage sensitive signage, engineering improvements of roads, drainage, sewerage, water supply and sub stations and many more along with development of adequate parking lots, new look walk ways and more.

There has been huge debate over flooring of the verandas of the heritage buildings in CP. While Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) advocated that sandstone be used to re-develop the area, New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA) has opposed this saying Sandstone flooring would be difficult to maintain and granite should be used instead. Granite flooring was used in the C-Block pilot project.

“The sandstone flooring in B-block has already degraded though it was changed only a few months back. Sandstone is porous and is difficult to clean. We want granite flooring as used in C-block, but it should not have any design and should be of uniform colour,” NDTA president Atul Bharghav said.

Conceived as an ambitious project the “redevelopment of Connaught Place” implies a complete renovation of all blocks, and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has said time and again that its deadline remains 2010, before the Commonwealth Games get underway.

Credits: NDMC Website for Renovated CP Image & “In the corridors of time” by R.V. SMITH for Historical References