North Municipal Corporation’s (NMC) ambitious Mahila Haat project, which was to be a Delhi Haat-like retail space for women, has failed to take off. Inaugurated by Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj in November 2012, the Haat was said to be “a revolutionary step in upliftment and empowerment of women”.
Pointing out the reasons for its failure, NMC Commissioner P K Gupta said, “At first there were problems with the structure. The place did not have a roof. It used to get too hot in the summer and there was no respite from the rain. Besides, it was not promoted as it should have been.”
The Mahila Haat had around 30 stalls for women to sell handicrafts. Gupta said the Haat was meant to be a space for women entrepreneurs from the Walled City “where they faced restrictions to moving out and marketing their product”.
First proposed in 2008, the Mahila Haat was constructed at a cost of Rs 2 crore in February 2011 and the inauguration was delayed till the end of 2012 due to weak initial response from women artisans. The NDMC commissioner said although structural changes to the Haat have been proposed, they could not be carried out due to the multi-level underground parking lot.
“We had chosen the area because of its proximity to Old Delhi. Initially, there was only family entry and then subsequently it was opened to the public,” North corporation spokesperson Yogendra Mann said.
However, even this move failed to increase footfall at the Mahila Haat.
According to Mann, another reason for the weak response is the corporation’s failure to conduct cultural performances. “Cultural performances were supposed to be the main attractions at the Haat in the evening, but those have not taken place. We are looking at reviving them and bringing about design modifications to attract customers,” he said.
At this all-women shopping area, 80 per cent of the stalls were reserved for artisans from Delhi and the remaining 20 per cent were for craftswomen from other states. Located above the corporation’s multi-level parking lot on Asaf Ali Road, the Haat was set up with the help of the Ministry of Handicrafts. Officials said the “family atmosphere” that was essential to the concept of Mahila Haat could not be created owing to the congestion in the area.