MCD polls: Before you vote, please visit Rani Jhansi flyover in North Delhi
The BJP-ruled MCD has failed on several fronts but few failures would be as stark as the Rani Jhansi grade separator project in North Delhi.
The project was conceived in 1998 and commissioned by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 2006, just one year before BJP took over the corporation.
More than a decade later, the project is not even halfway complete. Due to the delay, the cost of the project has increased from Rs 177 crore to Rs 724 crore, that is by around four times.
More than that, the project has extracted a significant human cost on the people living in the area as well as those having shops there. For instance, an entire line of tyre-shops near the erstwhile DCM factory opposite Filmistan were evicted soon after the project was commissioned.
Several houses and shops were also broken down in Azad Market to make way for the flyover. But years after the shops and homes were demolished, the flyover remains a distant dream. Many of those who have been displaced or whose business has suffered, say it has been for nothing.
"So many shops were evicted and houses broken down. At least the people should have had the satisfaction that it was for the larger good, or for development. Now God knows when the flyover will come. Naturally the people feel cheated," says Afzal a resident of Bara Hindu Rao.
Ramesh a shopkeeper in nearby Sadar Bazar says that the project has become a curse for the area. "You can't pass through Azad Market without filling your lungs with dust. The construction has been going on forever. Is it a flyover or Taj Mahal?" he asks.
Two major structures on the route of the flyover that are still standing are a Masjid and a Gurudwara that overlook each other. People in the area proudly say that the mosque can be seen from the Gurudwara and vice-versa. Of course, that won't be the case once the flyover comes between them. There was also a proposal to demolish and relocate the religious structures that lay on the way of the flyover.
Gurdeep, who often visits the gurudwara, laments what the construction has done to the Gurudwara. "The dust has changed the colour of the Gurudwara. It used to be spotlessly white, now it's covered with dust...And the road here is among the worst in Delhi. You can break you back on these roads".
The Rani Jhansi Road grade separator is supposed to be a 1.6 km stretch from Tis Hazari to the erstwhile Filmistan theater in Azad Market and aims at decongesting traffic around ISBT Kashmere Gate, Mori Gate, Sadar Bazar, Gulabi Bagh, Azad Market and Karol Bagh.
The project is symbolic of the failure of the BJP ruled MCD in the past ten years - given the huge escalation in cost, the endless delay in construction and the haphazard eviction of shops and demolition of homes. Not just that, it is also what the project has done to the area. Roads that were perfectly functional earlier are now riddled with ditches and potholes. The empty space created by the demolition of shops has now become a garbage dump, which the MCD doesn't seem to have taken any steps to clean.
Contrast the pathetic state of the Rani Jhansi Road grade separator with the Azadpur-Prembari elevated corridor that was constructed by the Delhi Government's Public Works Department. Initiated by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government in 2013 the corridor was inaugurated by Arvind Kejriwal in November 2015. The sanctioned cost of the project was Rs 257 crore but it was constructed for Rs 100 crore less than that. The credit for this goes to all three parties - as the work was done during the Congress government, AAP government and the intervening phase of President's Rule.
With little to show in terms of development during its 10 year control of the MCD, the BJP has chosen to fight the election on a platform of nationalism. It put up posters all over the city claiming that it would provide leadership based on "national self respect" as opposed to leadership that backs "anti-national" forces.
Perhaps it is to divert people's attention from the incomplete flyovers, the demolished houses and shops, garbage dumps, broken roads and the sea of dust.