It was once the heart of Delhi’s nightlife with live bands, dance floors and crooners. But over the years the colonial-era Connaught Place became the city’s business and shopping hub – and its grand colonnaded buildings wore a tattered and faded look.
Now, two years after its crumbling facades got a much-needed revamp, the upscale neighbourhood is set to come alive at night as authorities plan to allow shops and restaurants in its inner circle to remain open till late hours while also making the area vehicle-free.
“We want to promote night life, especially at historic markets in the city, including popular destinations like Connaught Place,” Delhi’s tourism minister Kapil Mishra told HT. “We had sent a proposal to the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) which the agency has accepted and has started working on it. I have been told it could be implemented completely by December.”
Every day, thousands of Indian and foreign visitors throng Connaught Place — now easily accessible by the Metro — to shop and eat, but bustling evenings make way for lonely nights with women’s safety a major concern in the Capital. Apart from permitting late-night business, authorities have also proposed to only allow pedestrians in the inner circle.
“The views of traffic police and traders need to be taken into account before going ahead with the plan,” said a senior official. “The idea has been discussed in the past as well, but this time a sincere effort is being made to implement it.”
Delhi’s former CM Dikshit, too, envisioned a similar plan to turn Connaught Place into a hub of late-night entertainment and culinary delights, but the idea fell through because of resistance from shop owners and traders.
“We welcome any move that helps increase footfall in CP which is not merely a tourist spot but a commercial district as well,” said Atul Bhargava, president of New Delhi Traders’ Association. “We have no issues keeping our shops open late in the night. But if authorities want to ban vehicular movement in inner circle, they must ensure that the parking lot in the area is not affected.”
While shops, barring restaurants and bars, at Connaught Place are shut by 9pm to 9.30pm, the inner circle remains chock-a-block with traffic for several more hours. Sources said the NDMC had started a consultation process with stakeholders and “trial runs could be conducted during the upcoming festive season”.
Bhargava said the civic body’s chairman, Naresh Kumar, had an informal discussion with him about the plan two days ago and would soon convene a meeting of traders over the issue.
Making the inner circle vehicle-free could be hazardous, he said, as it could add to traffic chaos on the outer circle and radial roads of Connaught Place.