Traders had begun packing up in 2015 due to dull business.

Hyderabads Shilparamam night bazaar shut five years after opening with much fanfareFile photo. Image Credit: SG LAKHANPAL-ARCHITECT
news Business Thursday, April 06, 2017 - 16:40

The gates to Hyderabad’s Shilparamam night bazaar that was wide open, just days ago, stands closed. The once bustling market is devoid of people and activity. This after the Serilingampally Tahsildar evicted several traders from the market at Hi-Tech city.

The official had evicted the traders for occupying the space 'illegally', and raided the place on Monday with the Madhapur police.

Speaking to TNM, an official from Shilparamam said, "There will be no night bazaar for a while. While the place still exists on paper, there are no more stalls or traders left."

In a press release, the authorities of Shilparamam had also stated that 13 stall holders had vacated the premises while they took possession of 20 more stalls that had been left vacant for a long time.

"The officials slyly came to the premises early on Monday morning, put wax seals on the shops and threw our wares out onto the street. We were completely in the dark about it until we reached our shops and saw the sight," Jacob Raju, president, Shilparamam Night Bazaar Traders Welfare Association, told the Times of India.

History

The idea for the Shilparamam night bazaar project was first conceived in 2006, when a stone laying ceremony took place, and a budget of Rs 11 crore was allotted. 

However, it reportedly cost much more, and took five years before the project was ready.

The night bazaar opened over half a decade ago in 2012, and was inaugurated by then Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy in January.

It was divided by design, into four zones. 'Azma' resembled the Stone Age, while 'Sultanate' displayed Hyderabad's culture and history. Then there was 'Vedic', which highlighted ancient culture and 'Adhunic', which was a modern market. 

It began with a bumpy start, as there were issues of permission to stay open late in the night, and stalls taking time to furnish and set up even after the inauguration. 

However, business soon picked up, with around 1,600 people reportedly visiting the place on a weekend by mid-2012. 

By 2013, the tables had turned and many of the traders were considering shutting shop, as they were not making any profits. 

The number of visitors had also drastically fallen, as the market began closing by 10pm or 11pm. 

Though there were more than a hundred stalls situated within the premises, they were never full, as they did not get enough takers. 

"The number of visitors to my stall is not even 10% of what I had estimated. Forget about profits, the business is so bad that I am struggling to even pay the rent of Rs 15,000. I see no reason why I should continue here," a handicraft shop owner had said at the time. 

Traders had laid the blame on the state's Tourism Department, for not doing enough to promote the market.

The rising tension in the city over the demand for a separate Telangana state only made things worse for the traders.

After bifurcation, the cultural centre was shared by both the states for the first six months.

Even during that time, the state reiterated that it was working on popularising the night bazaar again.

"As against 106 stalls available in the night bazaar, only 36 were occupied till April 2014. However, in the last few months, 45 agencies have opened shops and it is likely that all the shops will be occupied in the end of September 2014,” an official had said at the time.

However, things didn't turn out as planned, and by May 2015, several traders were packing up.

The traders were also embroiled in a conflict with tourism officials by this time, as their three-year license had expired, and the state alleged that many of them had not paid rent for months.

“Even though the agreement ends, we do not see any reason why the existing traders cannot be continued. We have invested a lot in the market and officials should be considerate. In the past few days, the market is almost dead with gates being closed and lights being switched off by government staff,” one of the traders had alleged.

The dispute continued for more than a year, with the traders moving court, and the authorities cutting power supply to those who didn't pay the rent.

By October 2016, only six of the 67 functioning stalls had electricity. 

However, even the number of stalls declined with time, as several traders packed up and left, as they couldn't even break even.

With the recent raid, the night bazaar is now officially defunct, with chances of revival looking bleak.

"We will resume work, and call for tenders again, but only after this entire issue is sorted out. It will take a few months at least," an official told TNM.

 

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