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Daryaganj book market shutdown: a threat to the legacy

–Written By Prashant Kumar
Law Faculty

Bhagat Singh was reading “State and Revolution” by Vladimir Lenin, while he was asked for getting hanged, he asked executioners to wait as “A revolutionary is talking to another revolutionary”. After some time, he kept the book and said: ” Let us go”. Bhagat Singh was an ardent reader and had a love for books like anything. By the schooling, he had read 50 books and from college till his arrest 1921 had read 200 books and during imprisonment 300 books between 1929-31.

A young revolutionary dreaming to free his motherland from imperial clutches was exploring the world by reading books on and by revolutionaries, reading philosophers of the world getting introduced to new ideas from across the globe. Same applies to Gandhi, Ambedkar and Nehru also. They all were ardent readers and writers.

The books are best friends a young person can ever get and they never betray. They introduce you to the world of thoughts, ideas and events that affects us, that matters to us. While we are living in a post-truth world where truth is being butchered every day on social media channels like WhatsApp and Facebook, there is no option left but to get back to the books for finding out the truth. Every day, some or other unfortunate incident happens on the basis of fake news propagated through these channels. It is high time that youth must indulge in serious book reading to contest this propaganda machinery.

Books are often costly and not all can afford, but it is indeed a need. The famous second hand Sunday book market at Daryaganj, Delhi since 1960 has been filling this void. It used to be a readers delight for many years. One could easily find very costly books of various disciplines at extremely low rates. The 2-3 generations of booksellers here along Aruna Asaf Ali Road have been depending upon these stalls for livelihood.

The market offered a wide range of choices to its customers, it used to have books cutting across disciplines be it NCERT textbooks, architecture, engineering, liberal arts, science, sci-fi or books & magazines for children, comics, for competitive exams and popular culture literature.

The market after the Honorable Delhi High court’s July order remained shut till this Sunday morning. The order speaks that “It is clarified that no weekly bazaar shall be permitted to be conducted on Netaji Subhash Marg for hawking/squatting”.

Till the market remained close the NDMC decided to relocate them to Mahila Haat ground near Asaf Ali road. As far as moving to Mahila Haat is concerned, the affected vendors were found saying that it was like selling your house and shifting to rented accommodation. Shifting to Mahila Haat would mean paying Rs. 170 every week with a lease of 2 years while staying at Daryaganj meant paying a rent of Rs. 15 per week and would have provided them permanent rights to the spot as per Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. Under this legislation, the market was already declared as “Natural Market” -a market operating for more than 50 years shall be declared as Natural Market and the vendors in such market shall not be relocated.

As per the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, a town vending committee (TVC) has to be formed for the examination and protection of street markets. Any street market can be removed or relocated only after being surveyed by the TVC. In Delhi, TVC’s still need to be notified. The TVC includes elected members from the vendor’s community as well as key stakeholders from government authorities. Only TVC has been empowered to relocate the vendors. But in the incumbent case, no proper methods were followed and be vendors were stopped from selling their books. Social Activist, Ankit Kumar Jha, also informed that “the court had just ordered for not letting books to be sold near Netaji Subhash Marg. The order did not provide any blanket prohibition over selling books at all the places. The vendors who used to put their stalls at Aruna Asaf Ali road could still do that”.

Thus, on 15th Sunday, common citizens, activists and hawkers joined together to reclaim the Sunday market. In order to do that two vendors who were sitting with their books at the circular pavement of Aruna Asaf Ali Road near exit Gate no 3 of Delhi Gate metro. Soon staffs of MCD came running and took away their belongings like a decoit without providing any seizure memo, any court order any paper. It was an arbitrary way of doing things. Under the legislation, it is mandatory to serve notice 30 days prior to relocating them. Soon, common citizens, students and activists started gathering in support of the booksellers. The book vendors staged a peaceful symbolic protest and kept little amount of book in a gesture to reclaim their space. Later, on the day, police used force to remove them from the space and detained then for 4 hours. Anyway, at the end of the day at least symbolically space was reclaimed by the vendors.

Ever since, the Honorable High Court of Delhi ordered the NDMC to make Subhash Marga vending free zone, the Police and MCD have snatched their livelihood. It has to be noted here that Honorable court declared only Subhash Marg as squatting free zone, while Netaji Sunday market bookstalls are kept at Asaf Ali road nearby Gate no 3 exits of Delhi Gate metro station. The authorities have been wrongly removing the vendors from the place. As there is no restriction to sell the books at Asaf Ali road. And they did that there was no problem with a traffic jam as claimed by people, as the market has been continuing there for a long time.
If you are really concerned about them, go every Sunday to buy books and keep the market alive.

“When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue, you give him the possibility of a whole new world.”

—Christopher Marley

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

–Neil Gaiman

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