From a small cart to more than 15,000 shops and 5,000 ready-made garment manufacturing units spread over 3 km, the Gandhi Nagar market in northeast Delhi has grown over the past 50 years and is now one of the largest apparel wholesale markets in Asia. Located across the Yamuna, the market is a hub for fabrics and ready-to-wear clothes.
A mixture of wholesale, manufacturing and a few retail units, it provides about 1 lakh of direct employment and 3 lakh of indirect employment – including a large number of women working in manufacturing units – and has a daily turnover between Rs 250 crore-Rs 300 crore.
However, the area is poorly organized with narrow alleys, open sewers, hanging electric wires and a lack of amenities such as toilets and parking spaces. Connectivity is also an issue due to congestion in the area.
The Delhi government plans to change this and redevelop it into a “Great Garment Hub” by converting it into an organized shopping area. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, while announcing the plan during his budget speech, said: “When people wear clothes made from Gandhi Nagar, they should say with pride that it is ready to go. employment in Delhi. This requires legal recognition, redevelopment of infrastructure, construction of new service centers and rebranding, marketing and repositioning of Gandhi Nagar. This program is expected to create more than 40,000 new job opportunities over the next five years.
The market has its humble origins in 1972-73 when a couple started selling clothes from a cart near their home in Ashok gali. Little by little, several shops open. In two or three years, about 14 small markets have appeared in the main market of Gandhi Nagar.
Business picked up momentum in 1975-76 when traders from Gandhi Nagar started buying fabrics and knitwear in Kolkata, Ludhiana and Lucknow. It attracted people from all over the country and from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, traders said.
“With growing demand, more stores opened and people set up factories inside their homes and moved elsewhere,” said KK Balli, president of the Association of Wholesale Readymade Garments Dealers.
To oversee the project, the government is set to form a committee which will include members from all relevant departments such as Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC), DDA, East MCD, Finance and others. . The nodal agency will be the DSIIDC.
Jasmine Shah, Vice President of DDC, said: “The market is known as Asia’s largest clothing wholesale market, but it is not a destination where people are eager to go shopping. SDC held a meeting with all major business associations before the budget to understand the issues and gaps. The idea was to make it a participatory process… The work has already begun, and several rounds of consultations have taken place over the last four months at the individual, association and market level… Within two to three months, various consultants and agencies will be enlisted in.”
Officials said the committee will be formed in two weeks and will conduct a survey to understand the problems faced by traders and traders.
Shah said the biggest problems in the market are civic issues: “Traders said that every time they approached the MCD, it refused to take up the case due to lack of funds. After receiving several requests from traders, the Delhi government decided to devise a “micro-level plan”.
The plan will target the wholesale and retail aspect, manufacturing units and connectivity, Shah said. “When it comes to wholesale and retail, the government wants to make it a world-class shopping experience for Indian and overseas audiences so that anyone coming here has access to proper facilities.”
“The second part is the industrial aspect. Gandhi Nagar is not an industrial area but it does have several manufacturing units which produce clothing in bulk…these operate on domestic licenses under which you can only manufacture up to a certain limit. But with the increase in demand, the illegality has also increased. The government plans to either provide flat factories through the DSIIDC or to dedicate an area for the textile industry in one of the existing factories/industrial zones. These are all ideas under deliberation and an overall plan will be prepared,” Shah said.
For connectivity issues, he said DMRC, DTC, railways and other agencies would be involved.
The Indian Express visited the market and spoke to traders and market associations about the issues they are facing and what they think of the government’s redevelopment plan.
Located near Seelampur and Shastri Park metro stations, the main market starts at Pushta Road. Traders said as early as morning the road was clogged with fabric and hundreds of parked cars, tempos and trucks. For laborers and workers who commute by bicycle and bicycle, the pedestrian bridge is their makeshift parking lot.
“Parking is a big problem. We raised this issue with EDMC and asked them to build a tiered lot, but to no avail. There is a company run parking space on Pushta Road for 200-250 vehicles but… it has been reduced and can only accommodate 40-50 vehicles now. Another parking lot run by the civic body near Shamshan Ghat is used only for loading and unloading trucks,” Balli said.
Besides parking, the shops are housed in narrow lanes, some operating from 10×10 spaces.
Sanjay Jain, a member of the traders’ association, said, “The power lines are almost touching the ground, posing a threat to traders, workers as well as customers. The market sees more than 3 lakh customers and workers daily, but there are no proper toilets. Traders’ associations have raised money and built toilets, but the company doesn’t even clean them.
According to the traders’ association, the market employs 40,000 women and there are no toilets for them. Muskan, who works in a garment factory in Shanti mohalla, said: “Toilets are a big problem here. I come here at 10 am and drink very little water so I don’t need to go to the bathroom. It’s especially hard when we’re on our period… most of us don’t come to work at those times.
While some traders and workers hailed the government’s plan, others feared a sounding promise remained.
“It’s a welcome step… but the question remains how it will be done. I have been working here for 25 years and nothing has been done for the market so far,” said Rakesh Bansal, owner of Bharat Traders.
Another trader, Vinay Kumar, said, “I am happy that a government has spoken about this market and offered to redevelop it. Encroachment has increased on the main road, which needs to be corrected. The government has to make a little way first, to get the people to believe them.
Sunny Kumar, who sells shikanji and soda, and is also a member of the Hawkers Association, said the government should also keep hawkers in mind when revamping the market.
Some traders demanded that the market become fully commercial. “Currently several units are run from household licensed houses… and people are running illegal factories. Even those who follow the rules are forced to pay bribes under the pretext that our units are illegal. This needs to stop,” Jain said.
East MCD Mayor Shyam Sundar denied the claims of traders and shopkeepers. Regarding the lack of car parks and toilets, he said: “Firstly, we don’t have land (to build them) but we have written to the DDA to provide land for the construction of a multi-level car park. Second, there are toilets on the main road which are cleaned regularly but the attendance is high so it is difficult…”
“There is a parking lot on Pushta Road where 1,000 cars can be accommodated. It is managed by private entrepreneurs; fees are billed on an hourly basis.
On the sewers, he said: ‘It’s not under the MCD. We deployed sanitation workers to clean the market from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.