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2 April 2014

Why Dilli Haat is going to the dogs despite being a really good idea

Jaya Jaitley in the Indian Express did a long column on Dilli Haat and how corruption kinda ruined it.

In 1994, the entry ticket was Rs 10. Stall rents started at Rs 75 for small spaces and platforms to accommodate very small producers selling paper or clay toys. Rent for 180 pucca stalls was Rs 2,250 per fortnight. By 2012, a flat rent for all sizes and shapes of stalls was arbitrarily hiked to Rs 8,470 per fortnight. This became tough for poorer craftspeople to afford and easier for traders to step in. On an average, over 150,000 people visit Dilli Haat monthly, bringing in handsome earnings to Delhi Tourism from entry tickets and rents from food and craft stalls. Today, Delhi Tourism earns a profit from Dilli Haat that is only exceeded by revenues from its sale of liquor.

I was an early Dilli Haat adopter, and my friend--whose mother worked in Delhi Tourism--and I went often when we were 13. There used to be this little machaan kind of hut where you could sit, and because she was a big shot's daughter, the momo stall (only one back then) would deliver the food to our perch on high. After, we'd walk around, and maybe get colourful threads braided into our hair. Teenage girls: the same for decades.

The original purpose of Dilli Haat is forgotten. Making money is now the only goal, whether it is through indifferent public policy or private greed. Some years ago, an appreciative visitor sent a letter to the editor of a national newspaper saying, “Why can’t all of India be like Dilli Haat?” Instead, Dilli Haat has now become like the state of the nation; corrupted, inequitable and shabby, yet somehow holding up.
Picture courtesy Google Images/Pleasure Mountain

Jaitley said she was one of the original founders of Dilli Haat, and that's why it makes her so sad to see how it's going. I am not one of the original founders, but it still makes me sad. The last time I went, all the times I go now, actually, it's packed. But it's not as bad as all that: there's still the yummy raja mirchi pork curry from the Nagaland stall, the only place to get Maharashtrian food in Delhi, and a nice walk on a spring day past all sorts of pretty things. Some stuff is obviously more rubbish than it used to be, there are loads more stalls selling the kind of tourist tat you'd see on the side of the road in Baga Beach, and prices have gone up majorly.

Many stalls have been handed over for permanent occupation to government agencies no different from middlemen. Traders have printed visiting cards giving the number of their “permanent” stalls, brazenly challenging the rotational concept. Customers regularly notice and comment on this, but no one cares. It is easy to guess why. Traders offer to pay Rs 3-4 lakh as bribes to be allotted a stall, or Rs 50,000 as inducements to genuine allottees to sublet their stalls. Honest officials who try to implement regulations have been subjected to vigilance inquiries while the crooks are always one step ahead.

Read the whole story here. 


  1. This is very sad and I feel there are many places in India that have lost it's charm because of greed

  2. In my Criminology and Forensic Science course-ware from NLU, I study corruption these days. I have bought reasonably priced tiny twin-ewers engraved with silver from the Dilli Haat in 2009 because I have not seen anything like them anywhere else. I am not surprised that the tourism department has also let this state of affairs to develop. It was only a matter of time that the crafts of India bit the dust as has agriculture.


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