Sunday book market vendors in Delhi demand heritage status
For the past three weeks, book vendor Sumit Verma has been running around helplessly knocking doors of every possible administrative officer working in the area where he had sold books for the last 20 years- Daryaganj. Ever since the Sunday book market was shut down on the orders of the High Court, he has lost out on his sole source of income, and has been collecting as many documents and evidence as possible to demand that the market consisting of over 250 book sellers be declared a heritage market.
“In fact the 2007 MCD policy with regard to street vendors clearly mentions the Sunday book market was declared as a natural market which is providing an opportunity to have avid readers to purchase books at low cost. We want the government to recognise this,” said Verma.
The heritage market status is of prime significance to the booksellers association because as per ‘The street vendors (protection of livelihood and regulation of street vending) Act, 2014, “natural markets where street vendors have conducted business for over fifty years shall be declared as heritage markets, and the street vendors in such markets shall not be relocated.”
The book market at Daryaganj is believed to have been functioning since the mid 1960s.
“The Daryaganj book market is perhaps the best example of a natural market in Delhi, It was unique in the sense that it was established without any support, as shopkeepers and buyers started growing simultaneously” said Kanupriya Dhingra, who is a PhD scholar in School of Oriental and African Studies in London and is doing her thesis on the Sunday book market at Daryaganj. “What Daryaganj symbolised is a parallel set of sellers, printers, publishers and readers, who may not want to read Jane Austen, but want a pocket-book on self help.”
After being evicted from Daryaganj, the North Municipal Corporation of Delhi (NMCD) has been trying to relocate them. They were given the option of the Ramleela maidan, Kuchha Bagh in Chandni Chowk and Hanuman Vatika. “None of these places are suitable for us. Books are not something that people will come to buy from a maidan,” said Asarfilal Verma who has also been selling books at the Sunday book market for the past 20 years.
“Since this is a natural market that has come up on the streets, the idea of the street is very important to their identity and existence,” said Dhingra.
Apart from demanding heritage status, the book sellers also claim that proper procedures have not been followed in evicting them. “As per the new rules of the Delhi government, no street vendors can be removed without a proper survey. We were removed without any such survey,” said Verma.
While the Sunday book market vendors are demanding heritage status for their market, there is also evidence to show that Daryganj has been a historic market since the time of the Mughals. “It became a market when Shah Jahan built this city. One of his queens, Akbarabadi begum built this market and it was known as Akbarabadi bazaar,” said hisotrian Sohail Hashmi.