New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) As the sun goes down every Wednesday, thousands of frenzied shoppers — men, women and children — queue up to shop at this brightly lit, but chaotic weekly bazaar on the crowded two-kilometre-long stretch of the Outer Ring Road in north Delhi.
The Deepali Chowk bazaar in Pitampura is one of Delhi’s nearly 400 weekly markets — at least 272 are recognized by the capital’s civic bodies — that do brisk business worth crores of rupees on the day of their operation, according to the National Association of Street Vendors of India (Nasvi).
These bazaars form a part of a traditional trend of buying from street markets, which have sustained their charm despite the growing culture of malls and everything-under-one-roof swanky shopping complexes.
On sale at these bazaars is almost everything under the sky. You name it, and it is here in this Deepali Chowk bazaar, surrounded by at least a dozen upscale shopping arcades.
All kinds of grocery, electronic goods, garments, shoes, household wares, bedding, furniture, toys, books, exotic fast food and, of course, Delhi’s famed street food of chats.
The Associated Chambers Of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), one of the leading trade lobbies in India, says Delhiites may not have fully accustomed to shop from malls even as numerous complexes have come up in almost every nook and corner of the city.
“What is intriguing is that despite the thriving mall format throughout the city, common people still prefer to buy goods from traditional neighborhood markets,” according to an Assocham study.
The trade lobby says “the mall culture has not been able to shift the focus entirely away from local traditional markets as the shoppers prefer to hang out and shop there, more so because of the familiarity with ambiance, ease of access, variety of goods, loyalty of the customers”.
Cheaper prices compared to shopping malls is one more reason to buy from weekly bazaars.
“There is a price difference of about 25-30 percent of the goods available in the markets as compared to those in the shopping complexes,” according to the Assocham report.
Rajni Shukla, a shopping buff, in her late 30s could not agree more.
“I come to this Wednesday market every week because (shopping here) is affordable. I do not prefer going to malls because I can find anything I want at cheaper prices here,” Shukla, a housewife, told IANS.
Others prefer shopping in these markets also because it is convenient as they usually open in the evenings and close late into the night.
“Weekday shopping is normally impossible unless you take a day off from your work. And Sundays get hectic at home. Yes, weekly markets are best for me as I can come out to shop after the day of work and take my kids out also,” said Sakshi Kumar, a mother of two, who works in a publishing company.
The weekly bazaars are a part of India’s unorganised sector, which forms a core strength of the country’s work force and gives a pivot to its economy.
There are no definite studies available to measure an average turnover of these bazaars.
However, Nasvi’s coordinator Arbind Singh told IANS that on a rough estimate the turnover of each market with 1,000-1,500 vendors is around Rs 5 crore.
Behind all these gleamy market places that come alive hours before they start in the evening and get dismantled before the next morning is hard labour.
Goods are picked from wholesale markets like Saddar Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Paharganj and Sarojini Nagar and carried straight to these bazaars. Temporary stalls of wooden planks covered with plastic sheets are installed. Each shop is decorated with a number of yellow tungsten bulbs — all this happens quickly.
The vendors pay the area municipal corporation Rs 10 for each stall and they privately say that they have to pay Rs 50-100 as protection money to the “men in khaki”.
And do they ever fear that they may lose the place to the growing culture of malls.
“We have been here for 25 years. Nobody can take our place,” said Sunil Kumar a garment vendor at the Deepali Chowk bazaar.
(Surbhi Munshi is an intern at IANS and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>)