What happens if the “Unofficial” becomes better than the “Official”? What happens if people who chose to follow the “Official” line feel cheated and let down? This is the story of Doon’s Sunday Bazaar and how insensitivities to local traditions and irrational “development” have result in a mess.
For about 30yrs now Doonites have been flocking to Paltan Bazaar on Sundays to do their shopping. From hairpins to woollen jackets, everything is sold on the footpath at rates which can be substantially negotiated. For years families from surrounding areas have combined outing and shopping by descending at the Clock Tower on Sunday mornings and walking down the Paltan Bazaar. Eating ice cream at Gaylord’s has been as integral a part of shopping as haggling with the scarf seller.
“The Sunday Bazaar started in the late 70’s” says Devki Nandan Pandey, a noted historian of Dehradun. “This was the time when donated clothes from the West reached India for the poor, but pilferage resulted in most of them being sold in roadside shops. This is how the Sunday market started” It gradually grew and became an integral part of the city. All this came to an abrupt end a few years ago when attempting “to reduce encroachments” the administration decided to give the Bazaar an official sanction and shift it from Paltan Bazaar to Tibetan market road at Parade Ground.
After an initial lull, new persons started setting up road side shops in Paltan Bazaar again and this “Unofficial” Sunday Bazaar is now a roaring affair. By force of habit, Doonites still flock to this unofficial bazaar, while the official bazaar at Parade Ground is a tame affair. Sellers who shifted to Parade Ground complain of their sales being halved. “I used to sell goods worth Rs 10,000 every Sunday in Paltan Bazaar” remembers Majir who has been coming to Doon every Sunday from Saharanpur for the last 10yrs, “here it is barely around 4000 – 5000 Rs. Now it is not possible for me to go back as all the places in Paltan Bazaar are taken. I wish I had not followed the official market” he rues.
The biggest loser in this chaos is the Dehradun Municipal Committee. It charges Rs 100/- per stall per week from those in the Official Market. Since there are around 200 stalls there, it makes Rs 80,000/- per month. In contrast there are about 500 stalls in the unofficial Sunday Market at Paltan Bazaar and shops in front of whose these stalls are kept, charge Rs 500 / - to Rs 1000/- per day from each stall, which gives a minimum gross monthly income of Rs 10 lakhs!
On an average most shops have 3 stalls in front of them and the charges decrease from Rs 1000/- per stall from near the Clock Tower to Rs 500/- per stall in the inner parts of Paltan Bazaar. The irony of the matter is that even though everything is conducted on roads which are owned by the Municipal Committee it fails to earn even a single paisa from it, while the stall owners and the shop keepers make hay! The turnover of this market is calculated to be a Crore each week!
It is perhaps not possible to change the habits of Doonites who will flock to Paltan Bazaar for the Sunday Market, whether it is legal or not. The DMC has already caused a great loss to those who followed its dikat and moved to the Official Bazaar. It continues to suffer enormous loss of revenue by insisting that there is no Sunday Market in Paltan Bazaar. Dehradun Municipal Committee is not in a position to pay its existing staff regularly nor is it in a position to provide even basic civic services to the residents of this city as it has no money. Perhaps it is time it stopped behaving like an ostrich, accept its past mistakes and starts charging people who use its roads to make millions. Or could there be some people do not want things to change as it will cause them a financial loss?
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