Like every Sunday for the last 40 years, street vendors at the Darya Ganj book market take their place on the footpaths — this time, without their books.
Following a Delhi High Court order last month to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to shut all markets on Netaji Subhash Marg, as the civic body told the court that it was a no squatting, no hawking zone, the market has been shut.
The civic body is now exploring options on relocating the book market. “We are exploring options and hope to find something mutually acceptable in a meeting this week,” said North body Commissioner Varsha Joshi.
In the meantime, booksellers are left in the lurch as their livelihood depends on the Sunday market. Subhash Chandra Agarwal (80), one of the first booksellers in the market, said: “Around 250 vendors rely on this market. But it is more than just us — students from across the city, poor children who cannot afford books elsewhere come here because they get books starting at Rs 10.”
A sense of nostalgia fills the road as some booksellers recalled their meetings with former CM Sheila Dikshit and writer Khushwant Singh. Agarwal remembers a young man who asked him for books but did not have the money to buy them.
“I gifted him the books. After many years, he became a government official and came back to us. He told us that the book market is responsible for his success,” said the vendor. A few metres down the road, four girls preparing for IAS examinations scour through the bigger bookstores for History books. Booksellers make Rs 2,000-Rs 10,000 depending on their stock.
“Bundles of books are packed and stored in the bylanes of Darya Ganj. If the market is shifted, then we will have to pay a huge amount to transfer the books every week. Besides, we are too old to lift so many books and travel,” said Kamar Saeed, who has been selling books for 40 years.
Supporting the vendors, Lata, vice-president of SEWA Delhi Union, said: “A market cannot be evicted without a proper survey. Besides, this is a very peaceful and historical market, held once a week.”