Two years ago, Delhi witnessed the quiet merger of its three major flower markets into a single flower bazaar in Ghazipur, near the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. The rationale behind the move was to have an exclusive, centralised market place for flower-stall owners.
The erstwhile markets were spread across the city -- in Mehrauli, Fatehpuri and Baba Kharak Singh Marg (Connaught Place).
The Ghazipur flower market, which starts buzzing with life as early as 3 a.m., is open to florists and the general public and houses a full range of seasonal flowers such as the beautiful yellow-orange marigolds, wild delphiniums, sunflowers, pansies, lavenders, roses, etc., along with ancillary products and services.
This was a rather idyllic plan, to have a flower bazaar which will build a sense of community and cater to round-the-clock flower needs of the city. “We can work throughout the day; we don't have to sell flowers at cheap prices during market closing hours as it used be earlier,” says Taran Rao, a florist at Ghazipur who shifted two years ago from Connaught Place.
The shifting to Ghazipur was also intended to provide greater storage space than what was available in the erstwhile markets. Raju Saini, previously working in the Mehrauli market, says: “We now have cold storage space that helps to keep the flowers fresh for longer.”
However, Taran and Raju appear to be members of a smaller section of flower-stall owners who are content with the shift. Their opinion is not echoed by several others who had had their businesses uprooted and relocated. The general consensus has been that of immense dissatisfaction and discontent.
They allege that the prevalent power shortage negates the advantages of having larger storage space. The move to Ghazipur has also resulted in more travelling time for many of the shopkeepers who are unhappy with the additional vehicle costs they incur daily in commuting to Ghazipur.
Babita, the wife of a flower vendor, says: “We have to leave home at 1.30 a.m. to reach here by 2.30 a.m. and set up our shops every day. Our travelling costs have increased yet our income remains the same.” The market is set up on the leftover land from a parking area; it was originally meant for a vegetable mandi. The smell of rotting flowers hangs in the air.
The shift has affected customers, too, as many find it illogical to travel such a long distance to buy flowers. Satish, a neighbourhood flower vendor, says: “Going to Ghazipur to Mehrauli is inconvenient and expensive.” The irony, however is that the shifting has not deterred the illegal continuance of selling flowers in the erstwhile markets. The wholesellers there take advantage of the situation of many other vendors such as Satish and sell them the goods at a higher price.
In this age of online markets and e-business, it is only natural that customers do not travel far to purchase flowers. Apart from bulk purchasing or flower aficionados, very few others frequent this wholesale market place. This is reflected in poor sales.
Ajai Raichand, owner of one of the major shops at the Ghazipur market, rues, “There has been a drop of about 70 per cent in our sales over the past two years.”