Uncertain road ahead for tongawallahs as MCD razes stable at Asaf Ali Marg

Much speculation and protests later, Delhi's oldest mode of transport, the tongas, have finally fallen to one of the Capital's many beautification plans ahead of the Commonwealth Games this October. On Saturday morning, a team of officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi accompanied by Delhi Police personnel and "adequate equipment", razed the stable at Asaf Ali Marg, forcing out the50-oddtongawallahs stationed there.

The 'phaseout' drive that began on Saturday is not an isolated case. With the civic body now planning to raze all other horse stables in the City zone and the Sadar Paharganj zone within the next three weeks, this spells doom for the vocation that began almost 400 years ago in Delhi.

The drive, claim MCD officials, is part of its plan to clean up the Walled City area in time for the Games. There are three more tonga stands operational in Old Delhi at Minto Road, Hauz Qazi and Kaudiya Bridge. There are around 232 tongawallahs in the Capital.

The tongawallahs, all of whose licences expired on May 31 this year, are facing their worst crisis in decades, with no alternate trade or space in sight. The tongawallahs of Asaf Ali Road have shifted their animals to the Turkman Gate area for now, but are yet to come up with their "next plan of action".

The civic agency is, meanwhile, adamant at phasing out not just horse-drawn carriages but also horses from the Capital. It wants the tongawallahs to sell off their horses across the state border and then either shift to their newly allotted tehbazari site in East Delhi's Shastri Park, or to a different trade. The tongawallahs are, however, unwilling to accept this condition, and has claimed that the agency has "gone back on its words".

Promised rehabilitation

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