Even as Model Bazaars are still operational, with Covid-related safety protocols in place, the city district government isn’t keen on restarting the Sunday Bazaars
As the city saw a decline in the number of coronavirus cases, markets and schools and cinemas were reopened, but the City District Government of Lahore (CDGL) is yet to arrive at a decision about restarting the Sunday Bazaars.
It is no secret that Sunday Bazaars — as well as Ramazan Bazaars — provided relief to the common man in times of rising inflation. A large number of citizens would show up at these marketplaces to purchase their weekly ration of fruits and vegetables, at comparatively affordable rates. The bazaars had been introduced in different locations including Shadman, Green Town, Taj Bagh, Wapda Town, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Johar Town, Gol Bagh, Karim Park and China Scheme. However, since the first lockdown — in late March this year — Lahore hasn’t seen any of these markets.
“The PTI government has deprived us [citizens] of our right to purchase cheaper fruits and vegetables, by not reviving the Sunday Bazaars,” laments Naseem Abbas, a resident of Ichhra. He says that he was a regular at the Shadman Sunday Bazaar where he would do his entire week’s grocery shopping.
Bashir Ahmad, who works as a peon in a private office, sold vegetables on a stall in a Sunday Bazaar in Johar Town every Sunday to earn an extra buck. “My day job wasn’t enough for me to run the house,” he says. “The [Sunday] bazaar provided a good opportunity to many like me to make a respectable earning.”
Following the closure of these bazaars, many part-time vendors like Ahmad have been left groping in the dark.
The CDGL has launched a drive, in the name of encroachment, against those who attempt to set these up anywhere. Insiders say that a majority of Sunday Bazaars were functioning illegally, but because of their mass popularity the government allowed them to continue.
Shah Hassan, a resident of Shah Jamal, says that he used to shop at the Sunday Bazaar but now it is closed. “I’ve been told that the babus based in GOR-III are the ones who raised objections to these bazaars. Post-Covid, some of them exerted pressure on the [city district] government to not allow the bazaar to open again.”
It may be mentioned here that the Sunday Bazaars, as we call them, are different from the Model Bazaars which were set up in various parts of the city by the Punjab Industries Department. Interestingly, these (model bazaars) are still operational — they weren’t closed even when Covid-19 peaked — with certain safety protocols in place, of course.
Strange that the authorities aren’t looking into the reasons why Sunday Bazaars are being kept out. Instead of issuing SOPs for these bazaars, the CDGL is keeping mum about the issue, despite repeated requests made by the citizens of Lahore.
Furthermore, the CDGL has launched a drive in the name of encroachment against those who attempt to set these up anywhere.
Insiders say that a majority of Sunday Bazaars were functioning illegally, but because of their mass popularity the government allowed them to continue. However, post Covid, once these bazaars were packed up, the government took a sigh of relief and decided not to let these reopen. That is why the CDGL’s top bosses have issued clear instructions to all ACs to not desist from taking action against those found ‘guilty’ of setting up such a bazaar anywhere in the city.
TNS tried to reach out to the Lahore deputy commissioner as well as commissioner, but neither of them responded to phone calls or messages. Later, a spokesperson for the commissioner said that the latter was working proactively to resolve the issue and address the complaints of the citizens as well as provide them relief.
The writer is a senior reporter at The News