MCD to restore 72-year-old clock tower at Kamla Market in Delhi | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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MCD to restore 72-year-old clock tower at Kamla Market in Delhi

Mar 15, 2024 01:33 AM IST

Officials said the project will likely be completed by June, and the civic body has already invited bids for the facelift and repair of the market

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is planning to restore the 72-year-old clock tower located at Kamla Market near the New Delhi Railway Station — as part of the civic body’s plan to revamp and beautify the market — according to senior MCD officials.

Kamla Market, near the New Delhi railway station, now has 271 shops and 1,500 workers who operate as craftsmen, porters and mechanics. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
Kamla Market, near the New Delhi railway station, now has 271 shops and 1,500 workers who operate as craftsmen, porters and mechanics. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

The officials said the project will likely be completed by June, and the civic body has already invited bids for the facelift and repair of the market. The market was set up to provide livelihood to Partition refugees settling in the Capital, and was inaugurated by former president Dr Rajendra Prasad on November 26, 1951, when the clock tower was also installed.

A senior MCD official said the architecture department has formed a plan to beautify the market according to which a common facade will be developed on the outer circle of the market, along with common patterns of signage for all shops.

The bids invited by MCD for the initial phase of the work said that the corporation would spend around 25.3 lakh on general repair, facelift of the clock tower, repair of the boundary walls and grilles and development of a new toilet block.

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An MCD spokesperson said that the civic body plans to carry out the work in phases and the funds may increase accordingly, over and above the 25.3 lakh. “We plan to spend 10 lakh on the clock tower repair and beautification, around 20 lakh on the repair of outer boundary wall and 90 lakh on the facade repair and improvement,” the spokesperson said, asking not to be named.

A second MCD official said that during the redevelopment work, the unsound and weak concrete material from slab beams and columns will be chipped off and the basic structure will be strengthened by repairing the rusted portion of reinforcement bars.

“The outer plaster of the market is badly damaged so a new layer of plaster coating will be developed after waterproofing of the rooftops. We will also replace the stone slab flooring with ‘kota’ stone and a new drainage network will be developed as the old lines are completely choked,” the official added, requesting anonymity.

The market was named after Kamala Nehru — wife of the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru — and turned into one of the biggest desert air cooler markets in the country.

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Members of the market association said that the area needed an urgent upgrade “The basic structure of the market has not been repaired for several decades,” said Pradeep Bhatia, president, Kamla Market Welfare Association (KMWA).

“MCD has started the work on the public convenience toilet complex in the area. We hope the other problems with the market, roof repair, paintwork, and illumination will be addressed as well. A series of meetings have been held over the last two months to plan the rejuvenation of the market,” he added.

Bhatia said that there are more than 271 shops located in the market. “The shops have mixed ownership of freehold, leasehold and license-based. The market was set up by the Land and Development Office after the Partition,” he added.

Crumbling structures

During a spot check, HT found that the busy market located next to the Ajmeri Gate was in terrible shape with poorly maintained toilets, cramped corridors, exposed plaster sections and damaged roofs. Concrete had come off the 40-foot-high main clock tower even as weeds and peepals grew along its cracks. The non-functional clock has remained stuck at 11.55 for almost three decades, the traders rued.

Lakhwir Singh, the vice president of the market, whose family has been running a shop since 1960, said that the market was developed as two concentric horseshoes on the lines of Connaught Place. “Originally, it had restaurants, grocery shops, and ice cream parlours but the market was not successful. In the 1960s workers from the Shraddhanand Market across the road moved in and the work related to making metal cases, cabinets and metalware started. It was in the 1970s and 80s that most shops moved to desert coolers,” he added.

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The market now has 271 shops and 1,500 workers who operate as craftsmen, porters and mechanics.

“The clock tower was maintained by the market association till 1995 after which our local mechanic dealing with its machinery passed away. It has remained non-functional for almost three decades but its original machinery is intact. We are glad that the heritage is being restored,” Singh added.

Traders, however, objected to the new toilet complex being developed in front of the market next to the clock tower. “We have enough toilet complexes inside the market, MCD should focus on maintaining them well,” said one trader.

Lieutenant governor VK Saxena inspected the market on February 23 and directed the agencies to take remedial measures. “Unfortunate that these beautifully designed and planned hubs in the heart of the Capital are crumbling due to unpardonable apathy and neglect on the part of government agencies... Instructed concerned agencies to immediately take up restoration,” Saxena posted on X at the time.

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