As the annual Dastkaari Haat Samiti Crafts Bazaar wound up on Tuesday evening at Dilli Haat, with 180 artisans from all over India, it left a sombre imprint. Throughout the 15 days of this year’s edition, a yellow-ribbon campaign was run “to differentiate stalls of crafts-people from those run by traders”. As part of this, Dastkaari stalls were tagged with a yellow banner and a yellow ribbon was tied on the wrists of visitors to generate awareness.
Jaya Jaitly, Founder of Dastkaari Haat Samiti, said she has written to Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to help rid Dilli Haat of excessive encroachment by traders.
When Dilli Haat was established in 1994 over a drain in south Delhi, it had three stakeholders — the Ministry of Textiles (MoT), which funded the project to help craftsmen and whose permission is still required before the space is let out; Delhi Tourism, which administers the space and gets all ticket and rental proceeds; and Dastkaari Haat Samiti — as its founders. The objective was to create a “permanent marketplace for impermanent people (craftspeople) on a rotational basis,” said Jaitly.
In her letter urging Sisodia to “take serious note of the original objectives of Dilli Haat”, Jaitly said: “The triple rental system has allowed traders to take backdoor entry and clandestinely take over many of the MoT stalls… the trader-occupants sit here throughout the year and manage to remain.”
While the monthly rent for 162 MoT stalls is around Rs 10,000, the 35 new Delhi Tourism stalls have a monthly rent of Rs 35,000-55,000. Fourteen other Delhi Tourism stalls go for lakhs, after e-bidding has been started this year.
Sisodia, who also holds the Delhi Tourism Minister portfolio, has approved a grant of Rs 6 crore for the renovation of Dilli Haat, which is going to begin shortly in phases. While Sisodia was not available for comment despite repeated attempts, his office confirmed having received the letter.
A similar letter was also sent to Delhi Tourism M D Shurbir Singh’s office last week, calling for action against “encroachment by traders selling cheap machine-made products”.
Jaitly claimed that some Delhi Tourism officials told her that “they have to monetise this place to make up for their losses in other projects, such as Dilli Haats in Pitampura and Janakpuri, which are entirely Delhi Tourism properties”. Singh’s office said he was on leave for a week and not available to comment.
Jaitly added that even if Delhi Tourism wants to monetise the space, the process should be fair: “Craftspeople can’t be expected to participate in e-bidding. We have even proposed that they hike the rentals for all stalls two-fold, so that they can make a good profit.”