Officials ignore Bhagirath Palace flaws, market not in Master Plan

Area
Unauthorised floors for commercial use, illegal godowns and no fresh licence - except for the handful of pre-1962 documents that owners of the place possess — the chock-a-block Bhagirath Palace electrical goods market in Chandni Chowk is a disaster waiting to happen.

When a shop caught fire and flames engulfed the popular market on Wednesday, there were talks of "accountability". Yet, senior officials of North corporation have found just a single fault: Traders in Bhagirath Palace do not pay conversion tax.

Deputy Commissioner R S Meena said junior officials would be able to tell the exact status of Bhagirath Palace. The junior officials, on their part, avoided answering two questions that Newsline wanted to know — why were traders not issued fresh licences and why were shops not sealed?

"The traders had not paid conversion tax and we have fined them. We may or may not seal the shops. We have to know the exact status of Bhagirath Palace before taking any action such as sealing," an official said.

The officials have no information about "illegal" constructions in Bhagirath Palace and it wouldn't be possible for them to take action without the knowing the current status of buildings.

According to the city's Master Plan, Bhagirath Palace is a residential redevelopment area. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) failed to acknowledge the market in the Master Plan Delhi 2021.

In fact, the private consultant hired to prepare the draft plan did not mention this market at all. The adjoining Lajpat Rai Market gets all the attention of the policy makers.

According to the 2021 draft Master Plan, only the pre-1962 shops can operate and do not need a trade licence. Constructions done before 2007 will be protected until a redevelopment plan is ready.

In 2011, the Delhi government issued fresh building guidelines for special areas.

"Master Plan 2021 states that wholesale markets will be shifted to integrated freight areas. For instance, the paper market has been shifted to Ghazipur. But many traders, such as the ones dealing in chemical products, refused to leave their old shops. They are opposing going to a new location offered by the DDA," a senior official said.

"Special area is a tricky point and we are under political pressure to avoid action against traders," the official said.

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