Colony gates: Not an open & shut case
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New Delhi: The city once again finds itself debating whether the gates of residential colonies should be kept open or be shut for security reasons. The issue was reignited recently by South Delhi Municipal Corporation asking police to consider ways to keep all 15 gates in Lajpat Nagar III open before the implementation of Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority’s proposed parking management plan there.
While the majority of residents’ welfare associations support the closure of the gates for safety, there are many others who perceive barred roads as a nuisance. “Last month, some scooters and motorcycles were stolen in Krishna Nagar and there have also been instances of thieves stealing batteries from 10 cars. In such circumstances, can you expect RWAs to keep the gates open?” asked B S Vohra of the East Delhi RWA Joint Front.
Pointing out that such gates were installed under the Bhagidari scheme started by the erstwhile Sheila Dikshit government, Vohra said the government had to guarantee security for the RWAs if they are to keep the gates open at all times. Others similarly said colonies on main roads or near markets were vulnerable and gates were necessary to deter non-resident drivers seeking shortcuts and parking space.
But those who have borne the brunt of long detours due to the gates being closed at night question the law that allows the RWA to decide which gate to shut and which to keep open. Veena Rangnekar, a resident of Gulmohur Park, recalled the trouble she faced taking her cancer patient son for treatment. “The doctor’s clinic is at the tailend of the colony near Gate 9. We live near Gate 1,” she said. “We requested the RWA to arrange to have the colony gates manned and opened when needed, but the members were adamant. Perhaps they didn’t want the colony to be used as a thoroughfare by outsiders.”
Rangnekar added, “My son was just as adamant about not being treated as an exception and walked the long distance to the clinic in the heat. He did not want to accept a favour or break the rule.” She said the current Gulmohur Park RWA believes in consensus and is “much more cooperative”.
Pankaj Agarwal of Safdarjung Development Area RWA also noted how difficult it was to figure out which access points were open when emergencies occurred at night.
The debate over the right of colonies to keep the gates closed has been raging for over two decades. In February 2004, ruling on a dispute between two blocks in south Delhi’s Saket, Delhi high court ordered that no gates should be closed during the day and should be manned at night to prevent any inconvenience to people and visitors.
“Despite the court orders, most colonies keep some of their gates shut, particularly at night, a practice that police
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quietly endorse,” alleged Ruchin Garg, who lives on Ramjas Road in Karol Bagh where two gates are shut after 10 pm. “RWAs don’t deploy guards to man the gates to avoid expenses. The cops find the arrangement convenient in curbing car thefts. But it’s not just latenight visitors who are affected, even the residents find it challenging to enter or exit.”
In 2014, a high powered committee set up by the central government to study traffic congestion in the city expressed concern at the mushrooming of gated communities, which prevented short cuts for movement of people and compelled local traffic to come onto the main roads. The panel recommended creation of secondary street networks passing unhindered through unbarred communities.
Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO, United Residents Joint Action, felt the fault lay in the government and civic bodies failing to address the problem all these years. “You can’t blame colonies for organising themselves while the government is an active participant in breaking the law,” he bristled. Major General P S Malhotra (retd), former president, Defence Colony RWA, was equally indignant when saying, “It’s not fair to blame us. We take decisions based on demands of residents. Closing the gates not only provides safety but also stops people parking their vehicles or using the colony lanes as a thoroughfare.”
RWAs members also argued that colony dwellers knew about the circulation plans. “Normally, for the convenience of people, we leave a small gate open for pedestrian movement,” said Harvinder Singh of Lajpat Nagar III RWA. He refuted SDMC’s observation that eight gates at the colony remained closed. “Barely four gates are closed, and of them three are on the back lanes,” he claimed.
Jasbir Chaddha of East of Kailash RWA advised a middle path. “Localised studies can be carried out in each colony to arrive at the location of gates that need to be closed. And perhaps small gates should be kept open 24 hours to give pedestrians access to the colonies.”
Delhi HC says gates to residential colonies cannot be closed during the day If they have to be shut at night, RWAs must post guards
Is it possible to man closed gates? Can pedestrian movement be facilitated 24X7? Can number of closed gates be rationalised based on needs of colonies