Gole Market: Road to restoration will shut its shops

Gole market
One creative solution to restore Gole Market to its full heritage status would be to keep out the bustling commercial activity that continues in this old colonial building, the New Delhi Municipal Council has decided.

The NDMC's much-delayed project will start soon, officials have said, and the first step would be to relocate 27 shops from the market's roundabout to other NDMC areas.

NDMC's Director, Estate, R S Godboley said eviction notices have been issued to these shopkeepers and that the council has already taken possession of six shops. "The market is architecturally significant. It needs to be conserved and restored to its old glory," Godboley told Newsline. He added that the roundabout is a busy intersection. "Our planners, as well as traffic controllers, have suggested there should be no commercial activity here."

NDMC officials said the heritage building has continuously been subjected to overuse, and erratic use at that. One said: "The shops in the roundabout are very old. Some even go back to the 1930s, but shopkeepers have done little to maintain them. Partitions have been erected; stretches have been encroached upon. Some have even tampered with the original fabric of the building. The NDMC, in a recent meeting, decided to immediately spruce up the roundabout's façade."

The project involves rehabilitation of structure services, restoration of interiors and the upgradation of surrounding structures. Apart from that, the NDMC also plans to install innovative street furniture and signboards in adjoining areas. According to reports, NDMC will award tender s for the project in coming weeks. The deadline has been set for 15 months after tenders are settled.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers are grumbling about the NDMC's offer of relocation. Most of them brought down shutters and protested near the roundabout on Wednesday. Shopkeeper R K Bansal said: "We have been here for decades. Our fathers and grandfathers ran these shops. Now they want us to leave. What are we supposed to do?"

Bansal's general merchandise shop was opened in 1937. He said: "My shop finds mention in various novels that talk about the city."

Traders said the NDMC's offer was not feasible. P D Puggal, who runs a legal consultancy firm in the area, said: "We were offered one-third of the existing floor area and the rent for the new shops is much higher. We pay between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per month today, but will have to shell out Rs 15,000 to 20,000 in the new areas."

The shopkeepers will now approach the Ministry of Urban Development to seek a stay order of some kind.

In 2007, the NDMC had offered them vacant shops in Council areas based on a licence fee, fixed by the civic body. Twenty-seven vacant shops elsewhere had been offered through a draw of lots. Shopkeepers had rejected that offer.

According to Estate department officials, an open bidding will now be held in June to allocate new areas if shopkeepers take the offer. They can run the existing trade in these new shops, except those who own restaurants, meat and fish shops. These trades are not allowed in Council markets. If any shopowner wants to change his trade, the NDMC will also consider that request, an official said.

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