On Friday, Lutyens’ Delhi had more security personnel than civilians, guarding desolate, barricaded arterial roads and shut shops, as the central region was blanketed with stringent curbs in bolstered security measures a day before the main gathering of G20 leaders.
Though shops catering to essential services, including pharmacies and dairy outlets, were allowed to open, most of them were found with their shutters down, residents said.
The traders and operators of these shops said that all the approach routes they are acquainted with were closed with heavy security deployment, forcing them to halt operations.
During a spot check, HT found that deserted corridors of Connaught Place were largely occupied by few security guards and pigeons.
Atul Bhargava, who heads the New Delhi Traders’ Association, said opening a few essential shops would have been futile when the entire area is shut. “It is not practical at all. The market is 100% closed. Who would want to face constant harassment while there is no business? It would be wastage of time with more expenses.”
At the gates of major metro stations such as Rajiv Chowk, security personnel were deployed to check identity cards and purpose of visit, with casual visitors being turned back.
Similarly, at all entry points of New Delhi district, which became a “controlled zone”, were manned by security and traffic personnel, who were standing at iron barricades and checking IDs of people arriving in vehicles.
On streets and intersections that came under the designated routes of the foreign dignitaries, people on vehicles were seen waiting for 10 to 15 minutes, as motorcades of G20 guests crossed. The roads were, however, opened for traffic soon after the motorcades passed.
To be sure, Friday was a walk-up of sorts — the curbs are in place for the next two days, when the security will only be tighter as the main Summit events kick off.
In Khan Market, a similar situation prevailed with a complete lockdown in the area. Sanjeev Mehra, who heads the Khan Market Traders’ Association, said that the market has voluntarily decided to keep all shops, essential as well as non-essential, shut on these three days, as all the approach routes are already under heavy security.
HT found that all the essential shops were closed, and entry points to the market sealed shut.
“The situation is almost like a lockdown. This is just the first day so there are no shortages but things may turn worse by Sunday,” said Sourabh Kumar, 42, a residentof Prithviraj Market. In the Bengali Market and Nabha House areas near Mandi House, all milk booths and grocery shops were shut, while a couple of vegetable vendors were seen in the inner lanes, away from the glare of security personnel.
Senior police officers said traffic restrictions in the zone will be stricter on Saturday and Sunday due to the frequent movement of motorcades of dignitaries from between their homes and the main venue of the G20 Summit in Pragati Maidan.