Mahrajganj, first wholesale market of Kashmir, has lost its sheen to government’s negligence.
Ignored by successive government, this old market has started losing its pivotal position in Kashmir’s economy.
It was developed in 1864 AD by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, on the bank of river Jhelum in Downtown Srinagar. Traders from Punjab locally known that time as Khaetris would visit this place for business dealings.
“Before 1947, the businessmen of this market had trade relation till Tibet in the Eastern side and Yarkand (in Afganistan) on its western side. Most of the time, the supply used to go from here.” said Farooq Nawaz Puret, a trader.
“Even we had trade relations with Middle East and the Europe,” adds Puret
Due to the high volume of trade, the market good amount of revenue to the Dogra treasury.
However at present, the scenario has changed, the market which once was of high repute is now witnessing downfall.
Ali Mohammad Dar recalls how the market has been degenerated during past decades.
“I worked here for past 50 years. I vividly remember how this market was bustling with shoppers. Now the market has not takers.”
Dar said the sales have also drastically come down.
“Our sales remain low for weeks. We receive customers once a while,” said Dar
Mohammad Ismail is a driver and his daily earnings have also taken hit.
“The shops here used to remain open till late night. We have more consignments to transport. But it is now very low. Now the market closes only at 6 pm,” said Ismail.
“The market is on the bank of River Jehlum. It was the mains means of transportation. The successive governments have failed to provide better connectivity of road,” said Niyaz Ahmed Khan, another trader.
The traders also harbor feelings of isolation. “Government has tried to cut us from rest of Kashmir,” said traders.
Most of the businessmen who have shops at Mahrajganj don’t want their children to join them.
“I have sent my son to Dubai to earn his livelihood rather than to keep him here,” said Farooq Puret.
The real estate prices have also come down in this market while the prices at other newly developed markets have skyrocketed.
“One shop with 15×20 feet dimensions would cost around Rs 7 lakh when the same shop will not be less than Rs 75 lakhs in Lal chowk,” rues traders.
The only hope for the survival of the market is its old architecture and historical places.
Foreigners also visit the place to see the Kashmir’s architecture.
Budsah Tomb and other nearby shrines are a very good tourist attractions but government has not capitalized on this front.
Assad Ullah Mir, President of Beopar Manadal (traders association of Maharaj Gunj) said government is just paying lip services of turning it as a heritage market.