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News: Demolition threat looms large over Banjara market but shopkeepers stay put: ‘Nowhere else to go’-16-09-2021


Gurgaon: Around 15 years ago, Indira Rajput, now 50, had arrived in Gurgaon with her husband and two children and opened a furniture shop on the footpath in Sector 56, one among only a handful at the time, she says. As years passed, others from her Gadiya Lohars community – a nomadic group from Rajasthan – continued to arrive in the city and the small group of shops mushroomed into more than 50, selling a range of items from furniture to pots, linen to décor, and crockery to cutlery.
With the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP) now planning to clear “encroachments” on the 25-acre land on which Rajput has both her shop and shanty, the woman fears she will be rendered homeless soon.
Earlier this month, HSVP officials had sought the deployment of police teams in the area even as they prepared for a massive demolition drive in the coming days to clear the “illegal” shops and a slum cluster.

“We came to Gurgaon only because the ironwork, for which our community is known, was no longer thriving in Rajasthan. We expected that we would be able to earn a living here and provide for our families. Never did we imagine that we would be turned out in this manner. We may have come from another state but this is our only home now. We have nowhere else to go,” she said.


Rajput is not alone. Owners of around 50 shops in the market, popularly called ‘Banjara’ market, are now facing the same fate.


Rahul Singh, who has a linen cart, had come to Gurgaon around five years ago, having heard of relatives in the city who had seen some success as shopkeepers in the market. In the years he has spent in Gurgaon, he has got married and now has three children. “It is not as if our business was ever really booming. We sell goods at low prices and that is what the market is known for. In the bargain, our profit is very limited. With the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, things have become extremely tough, almost reduced us to a hand-to-mouth existence. We barely saw any customers for several months last year and a couple of months this year as well. Now that people had finally started returning, there is a threat of demolition. How are we supposed to survive? Should our children starve?” he asked.

The market wore a deserted look on Wednesday morning. While several people had covered their wares with tarpaulin sheets in the absence of buyers, Vishnu Singh, seated on a chair at his décor-cum-furniture shop waited patiently for his first customers. “I came to Gurgaon around 10 years ago and have been running this shop with my brothers ever since. Problems seem to just keep compounding every year. Things had become difficult with online shopping and then came Covid-19. Now, we may lose our shops altogether. How much more can we take?” Vishnu said.

If the administration wanted them to vacate the area, Vishnu argued, they should give the shopkeepers somewhere else to stay and sell their wares. “We are willing to take that,” he added.

Officials from HSVP, however, said there were no plans to rehabilitate the shopkeepers at present. “We will remove the squatters and prepare a plan to develop the land,” Jitender Kumar, estate officer-2 of HSVP (Gurgaon), said. The land will be sold through e-auction, he added.

With little hope in sight, a few members from the community, however, have decided to return to Rajasthan. Among them is Priyanka (30), who has been running a furniture shop in the market for the last four years. “There is no point waiting until we have no roof over our heads at all. I have two young daughters and cannot take them and sleep in the middle of the road. We will pack up our things and leave by the end of this week. My relatives will provide us shelter for a few days till I figure out another solution. I do not like to seek favours, but I no longer have a choice,” she added.

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