Dilli Haat hijacked by traders & middlemen, craftspeople left in the lurch, laments Jaya Jaitly
A passive Ministry of Textile, an indifferent Delhi Government and a collusive New Delhi Municipal Corporation have allowed Dilli Haat, one of the major tourist attractions to turn exploitative
The iconic Dilli Haat, originally meant to liberate craftsmen and women from exploitative traders and middlemen, has been taken over by businessmen keen to exploit the footfalls by foreigners visiting the haat in search of original and authentic handicrafts.
With the original Dilli Haat set up in front of the INA Market, two more have now come up at Janakpuri and Pitampura.
“The Haats were like my baby, and I feel they have lost the soul that they had,” sighs Jaya Jaitly, the founder of the Dastkaari Haat Samiti, the brain behind the venture. As Jaya Jaitly struggles with getting her kaarigars (craftspeople) justice, she is fighting a legal battle also in the Delhi High Court with her petition claiming that Haats were no longer different from “shopping malls”.
The Haats were designed to empower ‘ Dastkars’ (craftspeople) and free them from middlemen besides offering them a decent and affordable place to exhibit handicrafts. The mission, explains Jaya Jaitly, was “to promote native handicrafts and artwork, and to provide genuine craftspeople with access to an urban marketplace without the interference of middlemen.”
She recalls pitching the idea of permanent haats, on the model of rural marketplaces, to VP Singh, inspired by the ideas of Gandhi. She got approval but the government fell. Unexpectedly, in 1994, a space opened up which was a covered up naala. Jaitly knew this was her shot.
She established the first permanent Haat, or marketplaces for craftspeople, where stalls were made available for a maximum 20 days at a stretch and in lieu of a reasonable fee of ₹10,400 for the entire period. The parties to Dilli Haat were the Dastkaari Haat Samiti, Ministry of Textiles, New Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation.
When it started, it garnered a lot of recognition. Word spread, and the Haats became a topic for tourists to speak about with great adulation.
However, post 2006, she saw that the guidelines under which the Haats were established had begun to fade with an ignorant Ministry of Textiles and an opportunistic New Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation. The initial circular had her as a party to the management of the Dilli Haat, the DTTDC was not supposed to interfere in the running of the Haats at all.
Over the years, Jaitly alleges that due to a lousy, profit-oriented individuals in the Delhi bureaucracy and managerial inability by the Ministry of Textiles; the number of genuine artisans has reduced magnanimously.
In complete violation of the original circular that established Dilli Haat, DTTDC has taken up unrestricted supremacy to allot stalls, increase the number of stalls, says Jaya Jaitly. She said DTTDC also set up temporary stalls in violation of the circular that governs the functioning of Dilli Haat. The association has alleged that DTTDC has been in the past allocating stalls without consulting the ministry and now began e-auction to give stalls to traders with prices for the stalls going as high as ₹4,00,000; conflicting to the purpose of the Dilli Haat to serve as a platform for craftspeople and artisans.
According to the Dastkari Haat Samiti, DTTDC “never had the power to allot stalls at Dilli Haat or construct additional stalls without the ministry of textile’s permission.Thus, DTTDC converted Dilli Haat from an internationally acclaimed crafts exhibition and bazaar to a shopping mall,” the artisans association complained, while pointing out that with the e-auctioning procedure of allotment, the highest bidder gets the stall, which makes it harder for the sidelined genuine craftspeople. In Dilli Haat today, while many shops claimed to have handwoven materials but they were substandard, mass-produced factory products. A stall claimed to have real “Pashmina” but the quality was nowhere close to the beauty of cashmere.
Most of the approximately 200 stalls are now occupied by the middlemen and traders that the establishment had sought to keep out.
An Odisha Pattachitra painter said he was disappointed that the government does not do enough to promote art and craft; indirectly telling us only few stalls make profit here. He said, “Go to the shops ahead, you will find people who make profit.”
Technically, only craftspersons registered with Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) are eligible to set up stalls at the Haat, which are allotted on a rotational basis for a fortnight at minimal rent. However, the reality these days is quite different, Jaitly said.
“Many traders posing as craftspersons have come to occupy the stalls permanently," she said. This was confirmed when a worker in a stall said, “Our factory is in Delhi only, we are also from Delhi. We stay here all year, just keep rotating in different stalls. I think sahab has paid about 4 lakhs for a month.”
“They keep on finding loopholes and different ways to keep sitting on the stalls meant for artisans, underprivileged craftspeople. When an honest officer speaks up he is threatened by or bullied by people in power,” said Jaitly.
Confirming this, in a visit to Delhi Haat, the Odisha Pattachitra painter claimed that whenever people like him spoke up against unjust policies, goondas won’t leave them alone. Jaitly also said that some of the traders have become bold enough to get business cards printed with stall numbers mentioned on them.
“I’ve written more letters than there are months in a year. Still, I see no reaction from anybody. The Ministry of Textiles says they are with me, but where were they when the Haats were compromised like this?” She asks. She says she has met with Manish Sisodia as well, and along with the architect of Dilli Haat and asked him to break it down and reconstruct it, pitched a whole new plan to him, but nothing ever materialises. “The courts are also not arriving to a concrete solution, where do my kaarigars go?”
“Shut it down if you are not going to preserve the soul it had when it was started,” says Jaya Jaitly, dejected over inaction about this problem
- Dilli Haat
- Jaya Jaitly
- New Delhi Municipal Corporation
- Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation