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The very notion of the National Capital Region, RIP!

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) When the National Capital Region Planning Board was created in 1985 to plan the development of the region around Delhi, which includes Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurugram among others, little did anyone know that the COVID pandemic would leave the very notion of NCR in tatters.

The idea of a central region, regardless of the different state governments involved, to focus on transport, telecommunications, power and water supply, waste and sewerage, education, health, environment and housing is in a shambles today as the Gautam Buddha Nagar administration continued to keep its border with Delhi sealed blaming the national capital for 42% of its COVID cases while Delhi in a tit for tat sealed all borders for the next seven days. Gurugram just belatedly unsealed its border, only to find it sealed from the other side.

Gurugram’s border with Delhi remained sealed for the first few weeks, blaming the national capital for being the source of the virus’s spread in the Haryana district. After Haryana opened the Delhi-Gurugram border in line with the revised guidelines for lockdown 5.0 issued by the Centre on Saturday, now it is Delhi which is playing the spoilsport.

“Delhi borders are to be sealed for the next week. Essential services are exempted. We will take a decision again in one week to open borders after seeking suggestions from citizens,” an annoyed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday, adding that the sealing will give city hospitals some room to get a grip on the pandemic. His main reason for the sealing seems to be driven by the fact that many from adjoining suburbs that otherwise comprise the National Capital Region have been seeking refuge at Delhi hospitals for treatment.

“The moment we open the borders, people from across the country will come to Delhi for treatment. Delhi hospitals should be reserved for the people of Delhi,” he announced controversially, evoking strong reaction from BJP MP Gautam Gambhir. He called him “Mr Tughlaq” and tweeted, “Just to hide your FAILURE, you want to punish innocent people merely because they live across the border? Those are INDIANS just like you and me! You promised of being ready for 30,000 patients in April, remember? Why ask such leading questions now Mr. Tughlaq?”

But away from the politics of it, the ground reality remains — a Noida resident can’t go to work in Delhi without a valid pass or vice versa. An IT worker working in one of the city’s corporate skyscrapers may be allowed to leave Delhi to go to work in Gurugram but can’t return without a pass. Before this weekend, they couldn’t cross the border of Noida-Gurugram from either way.

It’s not Delhi, alone. Before lifting the ban on travel, Haryana Ministers blamed the spike in cases in their state particularly in Gurugram, on Delhi. Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij had blamed Delhi for a spike in patients owing to free movement of people. “Only those will be allowed to commute between Haryana and Delhi who have e-movement passes. Essential service providers are exempted from the ban,” Vij told the media just last week.

Maruti resumed manufacturing operations from May 12 at its Manesar facility and from May 18 at its Gurugram facility. In fact, it posted a total sales of 18,539 units in May 2020. But now with Delhi sealing the border soon after Haryana unsealed it, many manufacturing units like Maruti may continue to get affected for want of skilled hands who may be living on the other side of the border.

Even the Noida District magistrate has gone on record on Sunday night to blame 42% of the district’s cases on the national capital. Both Noida and Delhi have now sealed their borders with each other.

Deepak, a resident of Delhi but who works in Noida, told IANS just a day before, “I don’t have a pass, that’s why the police isn’t allowing me to enter Noida. I am facing a lot of trouble. Once, I was allowed to enter without a valid pass but not today.” There are many like Deepak across the national capital who are finding it increasingly tough to earn a living as their workplaces start reopening on the other side of the border.

The National Capital Region is not just an idea but ease of smooth operation among adjoining border districts which includes transportation. The reason why the Delhi metro runs through Noida and Gurugram is only because of the existence of such an idea. Not just Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, Rajasthan’s Alwar and Bharatpur too are considered to be a part of the ever expanding NCR. In fact, in 2018 the government of Uttar Pradesh proposed the extension of the NCR to cover the districts of Aligarh, Bijnor, Hathras and Mathura.

But with the pandemic raging in the country including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and the governments having gone or going on a sealing spree, the epitaph of the National Capital Region seems to have been written.

–IANS

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