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January 2nd, 2012

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The news this morning. The office of the Lokpal has cleared the following city projects to proceed to completion during 2022.

First, the Jawaharlal Nehru Underpass in Delhi — work on which has been stalled for 18 months because of allegations of improper influence and bribery, allegedly at the behest of the enabling agents of nine major ministries and departments. The Prime Minister is expected to open J N Underpass on August 15, 2022, exactly one year after the original opening date.

The controversy had to do with the exact route the six-lane underground highway would take beneath Lutyens’ Delhi, as certain ministries and departments allegedly did not want the highway to pass beneath their office buildings, or the homes of their senior officers.

The final route has been fixed and the Lokpal notified. In the interest of security and public order, the exact route will not be released to the general public until the opening day. The entry and exit points of the underpass, however, remain as originally planned. They are (in clockwise order): National Rail Museum, Gyarah Murti, Park Street, Patel Chowk, Meridien Hotel, Mandi House, Golf Links and Jor Bagh.

From August 15, therefore, no public traffic will be allowed to enter the high-security Lutyens’ zone. Metro trains will stop at only eight designated stations in this area and entry and exit will be controlled. The Lutyens’ zone has already been declared a national bird preserve and biodiversity park, on December 3, 2021, after Unesco accepted the Government of India’s proposal for the same. Cars wishing to enter this area must show the appropriate passes issued by the Home Ministry counter in every Road Transport Office.

For full traffic routing plans post-August 15, issued by Delhi Traffic Police, please select 2. For information on Metro access in the central zone, please select 3 (external site, see Disclaimer). For the latest on the controversy over the proposed name change to the Lutyens’ zone, please select 4.

“I am really looking forward to this change,” said MP Raghu Vir Singh, 77, of the PKP, whose bungalow in New Moti Bagh will be within the green zone and next to the wall. “It will be so good for the natural environment of the city. My son likes to watch birds through his binoculars, and he is really looking forward to seeing the European birds that will visit the lake.” Singh’s son Madan Vir Singh, 44, is a Madhya Pradesh MLA. The lake, a 3-acre water body created last year and named after late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N P Bhaktavatsalam, is on the site of the former Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, which shifted to its sprawling new campus in Greater Noida in July 2020 as per Delhi Government request.

A PMO release today quoted the Prime Minister as saying, “I humbly dedicate this nature park to the people. I hope they will enjoy the combined benefits of a green lung for the city and faster and safer transport. I urge our planning professionals to draw some lessons from this successful public-private partnership and seek ways to implement them in the metropolitan cities.” It is known that J N Underpass does not go beneath Race Course Road.

“I can’t believe they have actually done it,” said Avantika Pradhan, 32, media professional. “It’s about time. JNUPass will cut my travel time from two and a half hours to one and a half hours.” Pradhan lives in north Delhi and works in Nehru Place. “Plus, as a reporter I will get an official pass to the central zone. Best of both worlds!”

Others were not so positive. “The Lokpal was right to ask questions,” said Mihir Niyogi, 55, a businessman resident in Greater Kailash I, “but she should have released the information to the public. Why should not the exact route be shared with the public? Let us hear who the guilty parties were! Any road built with public funds should be planned most efficiently, not for the benefit of the few.”

Activist Rashida Sultan of the Delhi-based People’s Movement for Permanent Improvement, who has campaigned for freedom of information, told our affiliated news channel Standard TV, “I will file an RTI request and demand a response from the Lokpal.” Please select 5 to watch the clip.

A cacophony of voices — but the project is set to proceed. To respond to this story, please select “Response” at any time. Please speak slowly and clearly in either English or Hindi.

The second major project cleared in today’s announcement by the Lokpal was the Back Bay Redevelopment in Mumbai. The wall to enclose the bay, work on which stopped in February last year following allegations of corruption in water-sharing between different municipal wards, will now be allowed to continue…

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