It has been over a year since the Delhi government laid out a plan for the redevelopment of Delhi’s most popular markets — Lajpat Nagar, Kamla Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Khari Baoli and Kirti Nagar – under the Rozgaar Budget 2022-23.
However, the project, which was announced in June, 2022 and to be undertaken in collaboration with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), is yet to take off.
The traders are expectedly quite upset.
WOES OF THE LOCALS AND TRADERS
Khari Baoli, a wholesale market in old Delhi, is engulfed by the aroma of spices. Sweets of all shapes and sizes are displayed on both sides of the market street. There are carts carrying loads of supplies – large gunny bags of different spices, nuts and dried fruits.
Arguably Asia’s largest spice market, Khari Baoli receives massive footfall every day. But the physical infrastructure of the market, including road, sewage, electricity and parking, awaits solution and development.
The government highlighted in its plan the need for branding of the market so that the overall experience of shopping is enhanced.
Nand Kishore, Pradhan of the Kirana Committee of Khari Baoli says, “Our infrastructure is extremely weak. People who pull carts are human beings like you and I. These young people who migrate from villages to work here, sleep only after taking Ibuprofen (pain killer). The reason for their pain is the condition of roads, which have potholes making the movement difficult. Even animals lose balance! I write to the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) regularly but there’s been no response.”
Kishore says that despite promise, nothing has been done.
“Last year, Brijesh Goyal, president of Chamber of Trade and Industry (CTI) visited the market and said that the Aam Aadmi Party has come up with the redevelopment plan of five prominent Delhi markets of which Khari Baoli is one. He claimed that their party would redevelopment work but nothing has been done yet. We want the infrastructure to get better here. There’s a major sewage issue in Khari Baoli. Even slight rain causes water-logging.”
Kishore added that market traders are missing the late Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit.
“Her incredible support to the traders of Purani Dilli is unparalleled. We used to go to her with every problem and she would immediately direct the authorities concerned to solve the matter.”
He gave examples of two problems that remain unresolved despite the authorities being apprised of it.
“There are eight general toilets in the entire market-place. Five are within the market and three are in the outer area. Those five toilets are managed by us (the market association). The traders can’t sit in their shops near the toilets due to the unbearable stench. The authorities say that they have no funds to refurbish these toilets. Is this an answer? The area near Old Delhi Railway Station lacks street lights.”
Kishore said that even though they are the primary stakeholders they haven’t been consulted on the redevelopment project.
Traffic congestion is another problem and it can take as much as an hour to reach Khari Baoli from Mithaipul – a distance of 1.9 km – due to encroachment on the way.
“These areas were established decades ago when construction of only one floor was permitted. The sewage lines and water pipelines were laid down as per those structures. However, things have changed now due to rise in population. Those age-old pipelines can’t bear the burden of excess demand. We want a solution to these problems. The day we see that we don’t face these issues, is probably the day we will believe that the so-called redevelopment is happening in Khari Baoli,” concluded Kishore.
LACK OF BASIC FACILITIES
Lajpat Nagar is a major retail market in Delhi. It suffers from a lack of toilets, and the only one available is unclean.
“We have one toilet inside the market and it becomes crowded in the festive season and weekends. The toilet is dirty and never sanitised properly. There’s no cleanliness in the market,” said Randeep Sinha, who runs a shop of bangles in the market.
Charan Singh Yadav, who runs the famous Ram Laddoo shop in the market set up by his father, the late Ram Babu, in 1983, complains about the lack of parking space.
“The main road leading to the central market isn’t wide enough and there isn’t enough parking space. Despite the recently-built multi-level parking, the problem persists. MCD has been doing nothing except raking in huge revenues. The rush in the market often triggers panic among visitors and it can lead to a high risk of inappropriate activities including a terror attack. Furthermore, lack of CCTV cameras makes things worse,” said the 45-year-old Yadav.
The largest furniture market in Delhi, at Kirti Nagar, is also one of the most disorganised.
One road leads to another, and there’s no way one can reach the market without losing track.
“We have more than 500 wholesalers and retailers selling furniture, interior designs, boutiques, kitchen and bathroom brands. We also have the traditional furniture makers. The footfall keeps increasing but the poor management of the market ruins the experience of the buyers,” said Manish Pathak, 63, owner of Pathak Furniture Enterprises.
“From parking space to lack of signage for direction on the street — there are several issues that we discussed with [the then deputy Chief Minister] Manish Sisodia ji,” added Pathak.
The Sarojini Nagar market, which is very popular among young women, also faces problems related to toilets.
The lack of well-built toilets and less CCTV cameras is a major concern of the people. The footfall is somewhere around 40,000-50,000 per day and the numbers rise significantly during weekends and the festive season.
“Babu Market (in Block H) has no toilet and we have been complaining about it for a long time. We receive more women shoppers and therefore the need to build toilets is much more here,” informed Ramesh Sharma, 55, a shopkeeper at Babu Market and a member of the market association.
NDMC, which has been tasked with its redevelopment, was supposed to present a proposal in the month of February this year. However, there has been no sign of it.
“The pedestrian path is dilapidated and kids often fall on the way. The market, despite being a hub, doesn’t have proper signboards. The situation turns worrisome during festivals and weekends because people are afraid of getting lost in the crowd. Children are most vulnerable and we need to fix this problem by placing signboards,” said Sharma.
Even the residents in and around some of the markets are unhappy.
“Everyone, who will hear about such a great development plan for their locality, would jump with joy but the truth is that the government and local bodies fail to address even the basic problems. What is the point of constructing a selfie point on a road which has potholes? Why don’t the authorities see problems such as sanitation, traffic management and the condition of foot-over-bridge and subways,” lamented Keshav Singhal, 40, a resident of Lajpat Nagar.
Singhal added that the subway becomes a baoli (water reservoir) during the rainy season and people face innumerable issues.
Kamla Nagar market is known as a hotspot for the young population. Close to the Delhi University North Campus, Kamla Nagar is primarily a residential area. The market caters to the residents and youth of the University.
Dev Shukla, who runs a stationary shop in Kamla Nagar, said, “In 2021, they ran a trial pedestrianisation of a 200-metre stretch without even consulting the traders here. The trial was stopped immediately after we stopped.”
Shukla said that the market needs a facelift but the authorities have not made any headway.
“Their claim that proper nspection has been done and market association being involved in the project is a lie. We would like to discuss our issues with the government and see what their immediate steps would be.”