Colony gates: Not an open & shut case


The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Vibha Sharma & Paras Singh * THE TIMES OF IN­DIA, NEW DELHI | SATUR­DAY, SEPTEM­BER 14, 2019 Pho­tos: Ra­jesh Me­hta, Ishant Chauhan

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

June 2016

A com­mit­tee set up by Cen­tre on ‘De­con­ges­tion of Traf­fic in Delhi’ ex­presses con­cern at mush­room­ing of gated com­mu­ni­ties, which are com­pelling lo­cal traf­fic to come onto main roads by pre­vent­ing short­cuts for move­ment of peo­ple

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

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