Waiting to reclaim its lost fame

The Mahila Haat at Asaf Ali Road, launched with an aim to encourage women artisans has turned into an ordeal for the stall-owners there. Although the Haat has seen its days of glory initially when set up, with cultural programmes and customers frequenting the market, its present condition has turned worse, thanks to the lack of initiative of the authorities looking after it.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 2009, had proposed a plan to promote art and creativity by setting up a Mahila Haat at Delhi Gate. The project was finally implemented by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to promote small-medium enterprises and craft persons, particularly women.

Various women entrepreneurs had initially put stalls, selling handicrafts and artefacts ranging from hand-woven clothes to ornaments. The Haat also consisted of a food court which is no longer operational, unlike earlier when it used to serve a variety of Indian cuisines. “Now, nobody comes here. Whatever food we prepare has to be taken back home in the evening. We are paying the rent out of our pockets as there is absolutely no sale here. We will only wait for this month and then probably discontinue our stall here,” says Shabnam Khan who runs a food stall.

The rent for each stall ranges between Rs 600-1000, depending upon its location and is charged fortnightly or monthly. The existing infrastructure is also inadequate to protect products from extreme weather conditions as the stalls are open from all sides with just a roof for cover. Stall-owners arrange the rest of the ‘cover’ themselves.

“Although basic sanitation facility has been provided, no cleanliness is maintained. There is no provision for drinking water either. We purchase it at high prices or carry water bottles from home or go to the nearby hospital,” shares a troubled Fatima, whose daughter has set up a handicraft stall.

As if there is no end to the sufferings, Abdul Wahid, another stalls owner shares, “The Haat is no longer being promoted which has directly affected footfalls and our sales. The banners have been removed as their contract had expired. How are people supposed to know about the market?”

When Metrolife contacted the authorities, they were in denial, as usual. “We are maintaining the place to the best of our ability and there is nothing wrong here,” said Rajkumari, member of the staff, refusing to comment any further. The senior officials were unavailable for comment and according to the stall-owners, hardly anyone visits the place to take into account the prevailing conditions.

Even during Ramzan, when old Delhi is a hub of activity, this Haat sits quietly, waiting for its customers and the lost glory to return.

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