Even as residents have let their purse strings loose ahead of Diwali, Chowk Bazar—the oldest market in Bhopal—looks lackluster, thanks to the gross traffic mismanagement and encroachments in the Walled City.
Traders of the market told HT that the profit margin this Dhanteras had reduced to 40-50%, the time when sales usually peak in the festive season.
Blaming the mismanagement and lackadaisical attitude of the district administration and Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the slump in sales this festive season, Akhil Bharatiya Vyapari Mandal, state general secretary Anupam Agrawal, on Monday said: “The step-motherly behaviour of the district administration and BMC has affected the business of the old traders of the city. Despite varieties and reasonable rates, buyers don’t prefer to purchase from Chowk market. The reason is traffic congestion and unavailability of parking space.”
“Businessmen of the Walled City generate maximum revenue, but they are always ill-treated by the government,” he said.
Echoing the concerns, textile trader Rakesh Agrawal shares, “It has become difficult for buyers to even enter the market. On the one entry point at Peer Gate, the police barricading has made entry of people difficult, while encroachment by street vendors at Jumerati has created bottleneck on the other entry point…In the name of converting the area into a heritage site, they have dug out several places in the market.”
Increasingly acclimatising with the air-conditioned malls and online shopping culture, the new breed of buyers in the city too are avoiding the old city market despite profitable deals. Deepak Sharma, a resident of Piplani, said, “I can hardly think of driving to Chowk Bazar for making purchases due to the parking problem. However, if these problems are solved, I am sure people will start visiting the market.”
Not just traders, social activists too have been raising the issue of administrative mismanagement for some time now. “I have raised this issue many times that in case of any accident and mishap like fire, it will be hard for people to run away from the market. The encroachment and parking issue has created problems for traders and buyers both. It’s very unfortunate that government is ignoring the asset of the city,” said social activist Abdul Jabbar.
When approached Bhopal municipal commissioner, Tejaswi Naik, said: “We held discussions with traders to regulate and manage parking and other related issues in the city’s market. As we have just started, it will take us some time to manage and regulate things. From next year things will look up.”