Commuters fume as Li’s visit fuels tailbacks in Delhi

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Delhiites Monday had a harrowing time due to traffic restrictions put in place in the heart of the city during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit. Some even slammed the practice of closing roads for the movement of dignitaries.

Harassed commuters spent hours in negotiating traffic jams and diversions on a hot summer day and questioned the logic behind blocking off key roads.

Swaroop Singh, who lives in Gurgaon and works in Connaught Place in central Delhi, said it was difficult to reach his office in the heavy traffic.

“There was so much traffic this morning. It meant one to two hours more in my commuting time,” he said.

Some vented their anger on social networking sites.

“Why can’t the Chinese premier be airlifted? Why are tax payers subjected to torture,” Karan Malik, a Delhi University student, posted a comment on social networking site Facebook.

Another commuter Arunima Choudhary fumed: “Two years ago, when US President Barack Obama got injured in a basketball game, his motorcade obeyed all traffic stops, the custom for non-official trips, during the return to the White House. Hope our politicians learn from this.”

To add to the woes of Metro users, the Race Course, Udyog Bhawan, Central Secretariat and Khan Market stations were closed from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. For some, this meant long, uncomfortable walks to their destinations in the sun.

Traffic on Prithviraj Road and other roads leading to India Gate moved at a snail’s pace around 11 a.m.

When the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Li began, the entire area around Hyderabad House near the India Gate hexagon was barricaded.

“I thought I would not make it,” said a reporter who struggled to reach the venue of the two leaders’ talks. Camerapersons were seen lugging their tripods on the roads, she said.

Traffic police officials tried to justify the curbs. “There are certain inconveniences people have to put up with when they live in a capital city,” said an official.

He said advance advisory was issued about the traffic restrictions imposed since Sunday night due to VIP movement across the city.

Traffic police closed access to Sardar Patel Marg from Panchsheel Marg and Dhaula Kuan. Sardar Patel Marg, an arterial road connecting west and north Delhi to central Delhi, is on the route taken when travelling from the hotel where Li is staying to the Chinese embassy in the diplomatic enclave here.

Commuters were also advised to avoid roads near India Gate.

“Traffic was restricted for a few hours Sunday. Today there are restrictions in some parts of Delhi from 10 a.m. due to VIP movements,” a traffic helpline official said.

Police sources added that strict vigil was being maintained around Majnu ka Tila, home to thousands of Tibetans living here in exile, to ensure they did not carry out their threatened protests against the visit.

Li is visiting India at the invitation of the Indian prime minister May 19-21. From India, Li will go to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.

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