In the growing culture of western style malls in the city, Delhi has its own culture of weekly markets. These are held temporarily once in a week in most of the localities of Delhi and provide an overwhelming variety of goods from kitchen utensils to clothes to a variety of household items to vegetables to snacks: in brief every item a household needs.
These weekly markets having thousands of make shift shops on ordinary pavements, come up in the afternoon for a few hours and disappear before midnight. Transforming into hubs of commercial activity, these markets are akin to mobile malls for the local shopper- lower and middle class people in the city. Spread on main roads and streets, these markets are known by the name of the day by the people of the locality in which they are held.
These markets are generally organised close to densely populated areas and the number of shops vary from hundreds to thousands. The biggest and oldest weekly market in the walled city- Chor Bazar has over 10,000 shops though. Organised on Sunday the market is famous for the goods that range from clothes, jewellery, glassware, utensils, spices, toys, cosmetics and cuisines of old Delhi but is mainly famous for its exclusive display and sale of stolen items. But the biggest attraction of Chor Bazar, which is spread from Jama Masjid to Darya Ganj are the books which are sold on the footpaths on both the sides of Ansari Road in Daryaganj on every Sunday.
Earlier the market was organised right in front of Red Fort but it now has been shifted to Drayaganj because of the traffic congestion it used to create. The market fulfils weekly needs of the people in Old Delhi area and also finds visitors from the other parts of the city too. 'The second hand novels and literary books of eminent authors besides curriculum books of various courses are easily available in this market on very low price,’ says Manish Singh a resident of Patparganj in East Delhi who came to purchase some books on last Sunday.
'The main sale in this market is of second hand books as we sell them on prices which are 50-60 per cent less from the printed prices. We also purchase second hand books on 30-40 per cent less than the printed price depending on the condition,'says Aneesh a book seller on the pavements of Daryaganj. The market starts from morning but crowds increase by the day and by the evening, the entire area is filled with shoppers.
These markets are organised on each of the weekdays in different parts of the city but three days are more common- Buddha Bazar organised on Wednesdays, Shani Bazar organised on Saturdays and Ravi Bazar organised on Sundays. The retailers in these markets come with their wares and folding tables are hired locally. ‘The market is very close to my locality and provides household items on cheap rates,. They are also as per the current market trend and fashion. They also provide a variety of garments in various shades and colours on affordable prices besides kitchen items of various kinds,'says Harsimran Kaur, a regular shopper at West Vinod Nagar’s Buddha Bazar.
Retailers, who display items as per requirements of their target customers have more women and children and less men as buyers. Not only shoppers from densely populated unauthorised colonies but also people living in the apartments in Patparganj area come for shopping at the Buddha Bazara. The Sunday Bazaar at the IG Stadium Complex is unique as all the vendors here are women who sell handicrafts. The market set up in 2009 by Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) comprise around 1,000 women vendors who sell mainly handicraft items and women wear.
The markets are also known for hard bargaining skills and it along with the final selling price is often a matter of discussion amongst the women returning from the weekly markets. Goods, which are of the same quality as sold in malls are generally cheaper by almost half the prices that they are sold for in shopping malls. A kitchen knife which costs you between Rs 50- Rs100 in a mall is available at Rs 15 or Rs 40 in this market. 'You should not purchase from one shop but should take a stroll to have an idea of the right price of the item. You should keep quoting lower prices till the retailer refuses to give you on that price,’ says Smriti Singh a shopper at the Shani Market in Lajpat Nagar of Sahibabad. These weekly markets which were earlier in only Delhi are now also spreading in NCR because of an increase in population. In Sahibabad, the entire area is known as Shani Market due to the weekly Shani Bazar and even the police post there is known as Shani Chowk Police Post.
The history of these weekly markets can be traced to the middle ages when they were organised during the rule of Mohammed bin Tughlaq to serve the needs of villages of Delhi. But now they cater to the needs of lower, middle and upper middle class people as well. ‘The retailers of the weekly markets get their goods from the factories in industrial areas of Delhi, Noida and Greater Noida on cheap prices. The factories also give us branded clothes, shoes and other items on cheap prices due to minor defects,’ says Bhogal Singh, a leader of around 300 vendors in West Vinod Nagar’s Buddha Bazar. According to a rough estimate the weekly markets in Delhi do a business of Rs 20-Rs 30 lakhs per day.
E?ach vendor of the weekly market gives Rs 10-15 to the local municipal corporation on daily basis but some get their monthly or three monthly slip too. 'We have to pay Rs 50 as hafta (protection money) to the police and the same amount to an MCD person to do our business,’ says a vendor. ‘It is a fact that the traffic movement is hindered in the area due to the weekly market as vendors put up their temporary shops on pavements and roadsides,’ adds Bhogal further. In a recent survey, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has listed 86 weekly markets in its jurisdiction out of which 23 are unauthorised. In a similar survey, East DMC has identified 64 weekly markets in it's area per week but North DMC has not conducted any such survey so far. But according to sources the number of weekly markets in North DMC is over 100 with the famous Chor Bazar also falling in its jurisdiction.
‘We are working to regularise these weekly markets to ensure they are organised in a planned manner, for which a survey has been conducted and officers have been directed to start the process of making identity card for the vendors,’ says B B Tyagi, chairman of the standing committee in East DMC.
A similar proposal with South DMC is still pending however the report of a departmental survey was presented in the standing committee in June. According to sources, these weekly markets have protection of local councillors, officers, police and MLAs for share in the protection money or hafta. This is the reason why nobody wants to regularise these markets.