Large swathes of roads in the heart of New Delhi became out of bounds as the Central government clamped stringent security measures and restrictions on movements of vehicles and public in “regulated” and “controlled” zones from September 8 for the two-day G20 Summit on September 9 and 10.
Following frantic beautification efforts in the national capital, which saw the slums and unsightly places in the national capital being covered up with green sheets, the government machinery was at pains to explain that it was not a lockdown. Most of the business establishments and newspaper offices on roads connecting ITO have gone for a complete shutdown for three days starting September 8.
The government also launched a G20 virtual help desk to provide real-time traffic alerts so that traffic snarls could be averted. “Non-destined traffic and unauthorized vehicles will not be allowed to enter into New Delhi District. However, movement of medical emergency vehicles will be facilitated throughout Delhi,” a traffic advisory by Delhi police on the morning of September 8 said.
In another message, it said that the entry of Goods Vehicles into Delhi from across borders has been stopped with effect from 9 pm on September 7 and only vehicles carrying Essential Commodities such as milk, vegetables, fruits, medical supplies, etc. will be allowed to enter Delhi.
Loss of livelihood
As part of security measures in New Delhi, which houses the event venue and hotels where the foreign delegates will be staying, several traffic restrictions have been imposed, leaving the daily wage earners bemoaning the loss of livelihood during this period.
In recent days, Delhi has witnessed several traffic congestions as police conducted rehearsals for escorting carcades from different parts of the national capital towards the New Delhi district. As per media reports, as many as 60 individuals have received specialised training for operating “left-hand drive” bulletproof vehicles designated for G20 guests and ministers accompanying the heads of state during the event.
On September 7, the Press Information Bureau and the Delhi police issued several statements and advertisements as clarifications. A full-page newspaper advertisement issued by Delhi police that welcomed the G20 guests, read: “Global event, Global responsibility –Not a lockdown”. The advertisement advised commuters to “avoid journey” to the places in “controlled and regulated zones”, urging, “the restrictions will be implemented from September 8, 2023 (5 am) till September 10, 2023, (11:59 pm).”
“Don’t panic at all! There is no lockdown. Just keep yourself updated with traffic information available on @dtpftraffic’s Virtual Help Desk,” Delhi Police tweeted.
“As a number of heads of state are coming and international organisations are joining, that’s why we have made a ‘Controlled Zone’ in the New Delhi district. All the commercial establishments have been closed in this area for three days (8-10 September),” Delhi Police, PRO, Suman Nalwa told a news wire, adding, “We have been advising people to travel by Delhi Metro. Bonafide residents of the restricted zone will be allowed to move by displaying a valid ID. No restriction on the movement of essential commodities coming through Delhi borders.”
In the New Delhi district, all the Central government and private offices besides educational institutions, restaurants, malls, and markets in the national capital will remain closed from September 8 to 10. In addition to this, the district administrations in the National Capital Region have asked private institutions and offices to encourage work from home.
On select roads leading to the summit venue, all types of goods vehicles, commercial vehicles, interstate buses, and local city buses such as Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses and Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) buses have been disallowed. Entry of inter-state vehicles has been diverted to different routes.
The advisory said that people coming from Delhi Airport to Lutyens’ Delhi will only be allowed entry after proper verification of ID cards. Motorists might experience longer travel times than usual and are requested to make maximum use of metro services, the government advised. The Northern Railway, meanwhile, has cancelled or rescheduled several Delhi-bound trains whereas around 160 flights at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport have been cancelled due to the traffic restrictions.
Sharp reactions on social media
Such restrictions have evoked sharp reactions. On social media, many users have pointed out how even during the pandemic the delivery men in the food, grocery, and e-commerce sectors were not disallowed to operate. “The covid era restrictions have given a new imagination and a new device to governments Delhi G20 lockdown follows that motive appears to be to script the itinerary of G20 delegates and those accompanying them and to prevent them from interacting with people outside that script,” a user named Prassana S wrote on X.
Similarly, a user named Sanjiv Ranjan Jha said: “India had accommodated proudly many world summits in the past without disturbing the flow of life in New Delhi and in its surrounding areas.” Another user, Ravi Kant, posted: “It was an unwise decision to host #G20Summit2023 in Delhi. The city already notorious for chaos and pollution will go into a near lockdown causing millions to suffer. India after 2014 was expected to reform the concentration of power in Delhi. But it didn’t happen.”