Jama Masjid beautification project fails to take off

February 17th, 2008 - 1:33 am ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) The pristine glory of the 17th century Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque in Delhi’s old quarters, is nowhere close to being restored as a Rs.2.5-billion project for its beautification has failed to take off. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is said to have built the grand mosque in such a manner that it would be visible from the majestic Red Fort. But a cluster of shops and residences called Meena Bazaar completely obstructs this view today.

In view of these encroachments, the Delhi High Court had approved the redevelopment programme for the historic mosque and in October 2006 ordered the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to execute the plan by May 18, 2008.

But with three months to go for the deadline, the work to spruce up the mosque’s precincts has not even started. The MCD now says it has now modified the plan, which has been sent for approval to the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC).

Vijay Singh, project coordinator and MCD deputy commissioner, city zone, told IANS, “We have redrafted the master plan seen by the court.

“In place of Meena Bazaar we have now conceptualised a community centre and a shopping complex, which will also finance the project.” Incidentally, the bazaar was established by a government agency, the Delhi Development Authority, in 1979 after excavating the land around the magnificent mosque.

Under the new project, the Meena Bazaar area will be brought to its earlier level so that it does not obstruct the view of the Jama Masjid where thousands of devotees gather to offer prayers even today.

“Under the new plan, the 600-odd shopkeepers at Meena Bazaar will be rehabilitated under the lawns at the Parade Ground end. Another 600 illegal shopkeepers around the Kalimullah dargah (near Jama Masjid) will also be given space at the same level.”

Under the original plan, the civic agency had proposed to build a multilevel underground parking on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis at the Parade Ground in front of Red Fort.

“The Delhi High Court had objected to the multi-level parking. So under the new plan a three-level parking lot has been proposed under the lawns towards Subhash Marg,” Singh said.

“Part of the parking will be under the commercial stretch and will be utilised by the residents and shopkeepers of Meena Bazaar.”

“The plan has been now submitted to DUAC and its approval is awaited,” Singh said. “After getting the approval this month, the MCD hopes to finish the project before 2010.”

Singh was appointed project coordinator by the Delhi High Court to coordinate with different agencies and ensure its timely completion. The court had also barred his transfer until the project was completed.

But the modification of the project has been challenged in the high court, where a petition has been filed seeking Singh’s removal for not taking initiatives for timely completion of the project.

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