Palika Looks Tired at Twenty Three; Rakesh Kumar Singh
Dealing in altogether 45 goods and services, the market was divided into five zones (see box). The Central Hall, the Mall, the Mezzanine Floor, Inner and Outer Circle and the Mini Martket near gate no.4 and gate no.5. The Mall was a major centre for the handicrafts and jewellery. On the Mezzanine floor, there were shops selling toys, gift items, cameras, handicrafts and audio-vidoes. In the Central Hall, shops sold furnitures and household goods. Readymade garments, leather goods, tailors and drapers and other household items were on the inner and outer circle.
Hair dressers, health and cosmetics, tarvel agencies were placed adjacent to gate no.4 while gate no.5 came to be known for national and inter continental food. The area occupied by vendors and Tibetan stalls (fully reserved for the Tibetan refugees) was named Mini Mraket. Mehra saheb says,' Mini Market was a free zone, there was freedom to trade anything here. Even today. This is why here, you have tea-coffee, paan shop, cheap clothes and eating joints apart from repair-shops.
NDMC Palika Centre (box)
Details of the Trade Zoning Plan
1. Dairy products 2. Confectionary 3. Fruits 4. Sweets 5. Snacks centre
1.Hair Dresser 2. Foto Studio 3. Flowers 4. Beauty Parlours 5. Mini Health Clubs 6. Liquor and Provisional Stores
Fabrics 2. Garments 3. Cloths 4. Carpets & Hosiery
1.Cosmetics 2. Music and records 3. Sports goods 4. Toys and gift items 5.
Boutiques 6. Pottery 7. Handicrafts 8. Jwellery 9. Medical stores 10. Tobacco 11. Bank 12. Books
1. Electronics 2.Leather goods 3. Tailors 4. Provisional Store 5. Shoes 6.
Electronics 7. Lamp shades 8. T.V/Radio 9. Crockery/cuttlery 10. begs 11.
furnitures 12.building trade showrooms13. Household materials 14. Stationary 15. Travel Agents 16. Property Agents 17. Dry cleaning Shops 18. Opticians.
Palika vindicated its planners. Tourists started pouring in. Whosoever came to Delhi, made it a point to visit Palika alongwith historical monuments. Ditto for foreign tourists, who took a liking to cotton, woollen and leather garments. Sales increased and the market bore a busy look. Traders say that Russians came especially for woollen clothes. The shopkeepers and salesmen acquired working fluency in many foreign languages like Russian, French, German, etc. Palika also provided a cool haven from the heat of the Delhi Summer.
Times change. In a span of four to five years, the cracks emerged in the system. NDMC did a shoddy job in maintaining cleanliness, airconditioning. The rentals shot up five times from the original official values. The shops were being rented out with increased frequency rendering the zoning system futile. Responding to trade pressures, occupations changed. There was a proliferation of audio-video shops. Show windows became sale counters. Shopkeepers improvised and created two to three counters within a single shop. And each counter became a fresh source of enhanced rent.
Very soon, encroachments became a pattern. What began as a demonstration in front of stalls quickly became mobile shops in common areas selling socks, purses, readymade garments, belts and electronic items. Free for all bargaining became a culture. Sensing unfair bargaining and foul play customers became insecure.
All the same, Palika participated in and benefited from the ongoing revolution in media technologies. When digital technolgy replaced the analog the market soon switched over to selling CDs, DVDs and MP3s. Right from fresh Friday releases to hottest pornos, everything is easily available. A salesman claimed,' Anything that comes to any market in india or abroad today will be available in Palika the next day.' With the big companies tightening the noose around informal trade practices, Palika came to figure prominently on the crime map of the Delhi Police. Raids became a frequent phenomenon.
The last decade was full of ups and downs for Palika. Domestic tourists kept coming but number of foreign tourists declined. The business witnessed a slowdown. The shops verged on surrender. Now, Metro rail is about to reach gate no.1. The air is rife with speculation ranging from 'It may turn out to be a good omen' to 'it will destroy the market'. Old shopkeepers admit, 'Excess rise in rentals and wrong methods of shopkeeping are responsible for the tired image of Palika in its young age of twenty three... .'