Shopkeepers struggling for livelihood at Red Fort’s Chhatta Bazaar


By Mohammad Suaib
New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) The Red Fort has always been a subject of attraction not only for the people of the country but also for foreign tourists as well.

But due to the Corona epidemic, the Red Fort remained closed for a long time, due to which it has had a great impact on the shopkeepers of the Chatta Bazaar present in the fort premises.

Actually, Shah Jahan started getting the Red Fort constructed in 1638 and after a tireless effort of 10 years, it got completed in 1648.

The Mughal queens and princesses did not go outside the Red Fort, so “Chhatta Bazaar” was built on the lines of Peshawar (now in Pakistan), which was called “Bazar-e-Mishkaf”.

This market is found as soon as you reach inside the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort. There are more than 40 shops in this market.

Handicraft goods are sold at these shops. Now a days, international flights are banned due to Corona epidemic restrictions. Due to which foreigners are not able to visit all these monuments. This is the reason that it has become a problem for the shopkeepers now.

Although this market now also has an association whose name is “Redfort Bazaar Shopkeepers Association”. Asim Hussain’s shop is from the year 1893, his ‘great grandfather was given this shop by the British Army.

Asim Hussain told IANS, “Our shop is here from 1893, our ‘Par Dada’ did a photography course from London at that time, then he was given this shop in honour by the British Army. Our firm was registered in 1904.”

“The corona epidemic has affected the most on tourism. The shopkeepers who are dependent on the tourists are in very bad condition. Most of them are currently debt-ridden and running their lives on loan money.”

“The Red Fort has been closed for a long time since last year, now even if it is open, there are no foreign tourists. Tourists from Delhi or nearby only come to visit, they do not buy anything.”

According to Asim, some shopkeepers are also thinking to shift to any other mean for their livelihood as there no surety that till when the situation will improve.

In fact, the shopkeepers paid the electricity bills and rent of these shops even during the epidemic. However, the rent is very less but they have to have pay.

According to the information, the rent of these shops ranges from Rs 34 to about Rs 1,300 only. Apart from this, the people working in these shops sitting idle for a very long time.

According to the shopkeepers, they have experience in handicraft work, we cannot remove them, while someone new will have to be taught.

Actually, Chhatta Bazaar means covered market. The idea of “Chhatnuma Bazaar” came to Shah Jahan’s mind after visiting the city of Peshawar (now in Pakistan) in the year 1646.

Asim further told that “After Shahjahan, the Britishers again converted the shops into military shops. After that, this market came under the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi). By doing this, it is now with the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).”

The Vice President of the association, Manish, also has an ancestral shop in this market. Due to the effect of the epidemic, he is also thinking of doing a job somewhere.

Manish told IANS that, “The Red Fort is closed for the last one and a half years, we can only sell handicraft products in the Red Fort, which is entirely depended on the foreign tourists.”

“The shopkeepers of Chhatta Bazaar are making their living on their savings. There is no incentive from the government or the ASI. At present, only around 250 tourists visit this place but they have no importance for us.”

“If the Red Fort is open then we have to open shops but there is no work and apart from this, we have no other work. We have to bear the expenses of our families but there is no earning at the moment.”

“My ancestral shop is here, my father is handling the shop. Now I and my brother are thinking to do jobs somewhere else as there is no use of sitting idle here.”

Although about 10 to 12 shopkeepers have shops outside the Red Fort in other markets as well, but most of them are depended on these shops only.

Apart from this, all these shopkeepers cannot sell the shop to any third person, if this shop can be given to anyone, then it is to their family members, which also has a process.

(Mohammad Suaib can be contacted at


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