NEW DELHI: The capital’s India Gate area, known for its open lawns and the striking colonial era arch, may never be the same. The National War Memorial that is coming up there and changes being affected for “uniformity and design” at the Delhi landmark are set to alter the character of the place, and not many Delhiites are happy about it.
For one, at least four of the six parks forming the C Hexagon are being fenced, modifying the openness of the grassy stretch. Of these, the children’s park was already a fenced area, while three constitute the National War Memorial. The “renovation” of the India Gate expanse is being carried out by the Central Public Works Department, but the mysterious unavailability of the war memorial blueprint has made it difficult even for official channels to ascertain whether the alterations are valid and permitted.
While he believed the fencing is being extended for uniformity of design around the war memorial, Arunav Dasgupta, head of urban design at School of Planning and Architecture, added, “So far it looks harmless, but where will this lead to? Where there is fencing, there will eventually be gated and restrictive access. India Gate’s original character will then be altered.”
Many urban experts felt that the government should not have chosen India Gate as the site for the war memorial because security concerns would have bound the civic agencies to opt for fencing. As one planner rued, “A memorial to the martyrs could have come up anywhere in the city. India Gate, where people roamed without restrictions, is now a thing of the past.” No wonder architect Pradeep Sachdeva, who is currently working on the Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan, was left remarking, “Nothing should have stood in the way of India Gate retaining its character of being free, accessible and democratic for all people.”
India Gate honours the death of Indian soldiers in pre-Independence days. The new war memorial will commemorate the deaths of over 22,600 soldiers after 1947. In 2012, the then United Progressive Alliance government sanctioned the plan for the project, but it was only in 2015 that the Narendra Modi government called for designs from global architecture firms.