G20 over, next at Pragati Maidan: Biggest trade fair Delhi has hosted
Drawing from the G20 Summit, the theme of this year’s India International Trade Fair will be “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - United by Trade”
Following the successful conclusion of the G20 Summit at the redeveloped Pragati Maidan, the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), which oversees the complex, has set the ball rolling for its flagship event — the annual India International Trade Fair, officials overseeing the event said.
This year’s exposition, scheduled for November 14-27, is set to be the biggest ever trade fair Delhi has ever hosted, the officials said, adding that drawing from the G20 Summit, its theme will be “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - United by Trade”.
Pradeep Singh Kharola, ITPO chairman and managing director, said, “This will be the largest trade fair Delhi has ever hosted. We plan to use all 14 exhibition halls along with the open area and the convention centre area as well. The trade fair will be held in its full glory.”
Krishan Kumar, the deputy general manager overseeing the trade fair, said this is the first time that all 14 halls of the complex will be occupied. “This year’s fair will be held over an area of more than 120,000sqm, while last year’s event was held across 73,000 sqm.”
Kumar said during the fair, food streets will be set up in open areas. “We will have more than 30 state cuisines... The number of government departments will go up from 53 to 70. We are already getting requests from countries like Qatar for international delegations,” he said.
Another official overseeing the preparations for the trade fair said registrations for the event started on September 15. “With the availability of more space, we will have dedicated food zones. Each state will be provided with separate space over the 20,000 sqm open space. We will also be setting up SAARC countries’ food zone in this open area,” the official said, declining to be named.
ITPO also expects to surpass the previous footfall record of 1.8 million people, set in 2015, the official said.
The area where Pragati Maidan stands today once served as the Capital’s exhibition ground, and hosted many international events, including the World Agriculture Fair in 1959, which was inaugurated by the then US President Dwight D Eisenhower.
Later, the government decided to build an events venue at the spot, and architect Raj Rewal designed the original layout of the complex, which was inaugurated in November 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The iconic Hall of Nations was the venue of Asia 1972 — the third Asian International Trade Fair — coinciding with the India’s silver jubilee year of Independence.
In 1980, Pragati Maidan hosted its first India International Trade Fair, and with the gradual addition of more halls and state pavilions, the event has grown into a major tourist attraction.
Chetan Sharma, 68, a resident of Greater Kailash 2, said visiting Pragati Maidan for the trade fair used to be an annual family affair for him in 1980s and 90s. “This used to be the biggest event of the year. Winter was not yet too harsh, and families would spend the entire day strolling in the pavilions… Everyone in the family had something to look forward to,” he said, adding that this was the first event in Delhi where the general public could purchase products from other countries.
Pankaj Aggarwal, 62, a resident of Safdarjung Enclave, added, “We had relatives coming to Delhi from as far as West Bengal during the winters just to visit the trade fair. There was certainly a craze about this annual event. Even in those times, Pragati Maidan would be flooded with people, even though the population of the city was much smaller.”
The ITPO official quoted above said the organisation hosts over a dozen fairs over the year, but the trade fair —now a winter fixture —is their bread and butter. “We say that just one successful trade fair makes us enough money to pay the salaries of all ITPO employees through the year,” the official said.
A proposal to redevelop Pragati Maidan with a new convention centre was floated ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. ITPO conceptualised the comprehensive International Exhibition and Convention Centre (IECC) project in December 2015, and the Union cabinet approved it in 2017.
Under the proposal, the Hall of Nations and four other halls were to be demolished, sparking outrage among heritage conservationists and city residents.
At the time of demolition, a joint statement by Rewal, structural engineer Mahendra Raj, former INTACH convener (Delhi chapter) AGK Menon, and Indian Institute of Architects presidents Divya Kush had said, “We consider the demolition of the Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan an act of outrage...”
Eventually, however, the revamped Pragati Maidan complex project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July this year, and the G20 Summit was held at the Bharat Mandapam centre on September 9 and 10.
The ITPO official quoted above said this year, the organisation will also expand the trade fair to other parts of the country, starting with Jammu and Kashmir.
“Before the Delhi fair is held in November, a J&K trade fair will be organised between September 27 to October 2. We are trying to hold similar fairs in other parts of the country,” the official said.
The event will be held at Srinagar’s emporium garden grounds, and will feature sections on horticulture products, crafts, handloom, carpets, spices among other local products.
“The idea is to export the trade fairs in areas with untapped economic potential. We are holding the fair with J&K trade promotion organisation so that this can be turned into an annual event,” the official said