Days of Delhi's Kamala Market numbered

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 9 2014, 16:16pm hrs
Kamala MarketKamala Market, the historic municipal mart and a veritable city landmark, may soon give way to a high-rise commercial complex.
Kamala Market, the historic municipal mart and a veritable city landmark, may soon give way to a high-rise commercial complex.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation, as part of its budget has firmed up plans to replace the over 60-year-old bazaar, dubbed Asia's biggest air-cooler market, with a multi-storeyed building complex to "increase the revenues".

"Commercial spaces like Kamala Market and Ghaffar Market, only couple of storey high and built years ago, have now grown decrepit and are occupying space. By replacing them with modern commercial complexes we seek to utilise the space as well as increase the revenues for the civic body," NDMC Standing Committee Chairman Mohan Bhardwaj told PTI.

Built in the 1950s and named after the wife of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamala Market now faces an uncertain future.

The old market, inaugurated by the first President Rajendra Prasad, with its now-faded clock-tower, located next to the New Delhi railway station is part of the city's immediate post-colonial heritage.

"As part of the budget for this year, we looked into ways of augmenting our revenues and these old markets, among others, we thought could become sources of revenues," Bhardwaj said.

Ghaffar Market, located in central Delhi's Karol Bagh and also built in the 1950s, and famous for its 'dubious' electronic goods too is most likely to make way for a high-rise complex, the Corporation said.

Built with a cost of Rs 5.3 lakh, it was once Delhi's spacious market but is now largely crowded owing to increasing population and vehicular traffic and parking problems.

But shopkeepers at Kamala Market are not so happy at the prospect of losing "one of the oldest markets in the city" after independence.

"You can look at the condition here, decaying walls, the clock-tower that doesn't work, and people urinating around its premises, it is awful. And, instead of dismantling it, why can't they just restore it as a heritage market It will also bring revenues from tourism," a shopkeeper said.

NDMC officials when inquired about preserving its heritage value said, "parts of it could be preserved".

"Well, if it was inaugurated by the first President, and has some history attached to, like the clock-tower, then it (clock-tower) could be preserved and taken inside a quadrangle, meshing with the new complex, thus marrying history with development," NDMC Public Relations Officer Yogendra Singh Mann said.

The faded landmark, with 'Kamala Market' emblazoned in red across its front facade, below the clock-tower still holds attention of many tourists passing by from the neighbouring station.

Bhardwaj said that the conversion of old markets into new complexes "is part of a larger plan to identify untapped and unidentified sources of revenue".

"While we know about these markets, there are many places (not just markets) which are not even known to us. So, we are looking into conducting a thorough survey to identify these spots, so that we can know these untapped sources of revenues," he said.

While the municipal body may be looking at maximising its revenues through a complete "replacement strategy", the demolition work is not likely to go down well with either the affected shop owners or heritage lover of the city at large.

Kolkata-based photographer Rajiv Soni, who has a penchant for capturing heritage buildings through his lens, says the "legacy must be preserved".

"In the west, the government preserves its old markets as heritage landmarks to drawn in tourists but in our country, we dismantle them in the name of development. Mumbai's historic Crawford Market too had faced such threats in the past and I am happy Kolkata's New Market is still standing," he said.