Bricks lay exposed, walls stood crumbling and a stench hung in the air around the historic Gole Market in Central Delhi on Thursday, a day after the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) took possession of the building.
On Tuesday, the NDMC completed a years-long eviction drive by sealing the last four shops that were still operating there. The market, with about 30 shops over two floors, had been neglected over the years as the NDMC and shopkeepers fought a legal battle. The NDMC had proposed to evict the shopkeepers in order to build a 3D museum there, but shopkeepers had taken the matter to court.
“The Supreme Court ruled in our favour. We have taken full possession of the market and will begin the process of appointing a consultant for the redevelopment of it,” said a senior engineer of the NDMC.
He added that the plan finalised last year had become outdated now, so the NDMC will invite fresh expressions of interest from consultants to design and plan the project. “We will be in a position to award the contract for the work in a year’s time,” said the engineer.
Architect K.T. Ravindran, the former chairperson of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, said the circular two-storied market was not the right space for a museum. “The space is too small for a museum hall. It may work depending on the exhibit, but it is a traffic island that sees a lot of vehicular movement. To make it successful, the entire traffic of the area will have to be re-directed,” he said.
He explained that Gole Market was the “anti-thesis” of Connaught Place saying “it’s not a destination”. “It was a market for Indians, whereas Connaught Place was meant for the British. Connaught Place was designed for horse-drawn carriages, but Gole Market was never meant to be anything but a market for the Indian officials who were given quarters in the neighbourhood,” said Mr. Ravindran.
Narayan Shamnani, the president of the Gole Market Merchants’ Association, said the NDMC was “fooling people”. “First, they said they wanted to renovate the shops before the Commonwealth Games, then they decided to make a museum and now they are saying they are not clear about the plan.”