A 1.25 km-long underground tunnel in the very heart of Connaught Place could turn into a major security threat due to the negligence of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). The ‘service tunnel’, which holds all of Connaught Place’s water, electricity and communication cables, has been robbed eight times since October 2015. At least 715 metres of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam’s (MTNL) cables, worth approximately Rs 11 lakh, have been sliced and stolen. Of the eight overnight thefts reported so far, the last one occurred on January 15 this year.
What is worrying is the fact that the tunnel, which runs below CP’s Middle Circle, is tucked right under hundreds of popular shops and restaurants. The Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, Palika Bazaar, Odeon and PVR Plaza Hall- all stand above it. With this sensitive facility remaining unguarded, anti-national elements could easily use it for terror acts. NDMC Chairperson Naresh Kumar reportedly went to the site after the January 15 incident to check the security loopholes that are leading to frequent incidents of theft.
NDMC Secretary Chanchal Yadav said: “We are aware of the incidents and have arranged for 24×7 monitoring of the tunnel with more guards and CCTV cameras.
Our assessment is that this could be the handiwork of insiders -like service providers who come for maintenance.” Yadav, though, could not explain how thieves got lucky eight times.
A senior Delhi Police official, when asked to comment on the issue, said they have received a few complaints and are investigating the matter. “We understand that Delhi is on high alert and antinational elements can use the tunnel for terror acts but we have deployed enough staff round the clock to keep a check on such activities,” he said. The tunnel-an engineering marvel-cost the NDMC over Rs 265 crores and took nine years to build. It is the only such tunnel in the country. Various service lines-electricity, water supply, irrigation, fire-fighting system etc-are laid out in a colourcoded fashion. This makes it easier to detect faults and correct them at a moment’s notice. It was a part of the Connaught Place Redevelopment project which was conceived in 2004 and scheduled for completion ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010.