The concept of the supermarket first started with the New Market east of Suez exclusively reserved for the gora sahibs who did not want the presence of natives while shopping. However, the present day condition of the New Market, Kolkata, which began its journey as the Sir Stuart Hogg market, is in a sorry state. The fashionable and imposing shopping malls have already overshadowed the former glory of this heritage market. In addition to an overabundance of problems, few customers now visit the sprawling Hogg Market as it was popularly known with its 230-odd shops selling products ranging from plastic products to sophisticated gadgets like smart phones to haute couture to vegetables. There was a time when the city’s elite used to visit this market to buy everything from groceries to the latest European perfumes. In fact, shopping in New Market happened to be a kind of status symbol among the upper crust of the society. New market has housed famous shops like Rankin & Company; Cuthbertson & Harper including S Lalchand, the 135-year-old ladies garment shop and the Royal Stores, the 113-year-old cosmetics shop. The last nail in the coffin of the former glory of the New Market was the recent state governments circular imposing a 50% surcharge on rent in case AC machines are installed in the shops.
The 1800 traders of this heritage market obviously raised their voice against this unprecedented circular and the result was that, for the first time in the living memory of this heritage market, the city witnessed a total lockdown of the market on May 16th. All four market unions joined hands for the first time to declare this bandh. The traders observed a rally in front of the KMC headquarters to make the shoppers aware of the severe crises they were going through. The potential threats to the markets existence are lack of parking space, poor maintenance of the market premises and encroachment problems in addition to the dwindling footfalls of the potential shoppers.
The demands of the traders of the market are to address these immediate problems with alacrity and utmost sincerity on the part of the government. The government has another side of the story. According to Mr Tarak Singh, the mayor-in-council (market) member, installation of an AC is not a major problem as the civic body would permit separate meters to each stall owner very soon. He however, argued that the traders of New Market still pay a negligible rent. If they agree to pay for the market upgrade, the civic body has no problems.
But what about the perspective of the the New Market lovers like Sushma Keshwani? The mushrooming glitzy malls have incited the decline of this market. On top of that, the government impositions are further shadowing the fading glory of this market. In this tug of war with the government and malls on one side and heritage and shop owners on the other, it is evident which team is going to win! But as a citizen of Kolkata, I definitely don’t want the demise of this near 250-year-old Sir Stuart Hogg market.