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Chowk Bazar to get a revamp

- Parking lot and flea market to come up

Darjeeling, Dec. 10: The GTA has decided to demolish all buildings at the Chowk Bazar square, one of the main business centres in Darjeeling, and develop it as a modern market complex with parking space and an underground rainwater harvesting facility.

The Chowk Bazar comprised a vacant space of around 180sqm and buildings on all the four sides when it was set up in the 1920s. Traders used to display their wares in the open area during the day. Concrete structures started coming up in the vacant area in the 1950s.

Although the entire property belongs to the Darjeeling municipality, it will be revamped by the GTA.

“This project is being undertaken by the GTA and not the Darjeeling municipality. The GTA has already held talks with shopkeepers at the market regarding the plan,” said Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of the municipality.

During an informal interaction with journalists last week, GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung said: “We will set up an underground rainwater harvesting system in the area. We will also have parking facilities.”

When the square was vacant, the British used to organise music performances by bands to welcome dignitaries who used to visit the hill station. The GTA now wants to clear the square and keep it vacant.

Darjeeling’s main vegetable market is at Chowk Bazar. There are also shops that sell garments, electronics and groceries. More than 100 traders do business at Chowk Bazar.

The vegetable vendors at Chowk Bazar have requested Gurung to give them space on the ground floor of the new market complex, a proposal he has accepted verbally.

Khudu Tamang, president of the Paatpasala Sangh which is an organisation of vendors, said: “If they are coming up with a better plan, we welcome the move. However, we want the vegetable vendors to be given space on the ground floor of the area. It makes sense to give the vegetable vendors the ground floor as it will be easy to clean up the area.”

Rai said the civic body had already requested the GTA to earmark certain portions of the new complex to accommodate some of the hawkers evicted from Nehru Road and NB Singh Road. “We also want to set up a flea market in the complex,” he said.

The municipality had removed more than 200 hawkers from Nehru Road and NB Singh Road two months back and half of them were already given space to do business at Chowrastha.

GTA officials said they had already started working out the modalities of the project. “The complex will be built on a public-private-partnership (PPP) model. The modalities are being worked out at the moment,” said a GTA official overseeing the project.

Since the blueprint is yet to be ready, the cost of the project and the time frame for the completion could not be immediately known. But sources said the project cost could touch the Rs 18-20 crore mark.