Agence India Press
Srinagar: Maharaj Gunj, which has a history of more than 200 years and once used to be the nerve centre of the commercial activities, has lost its sheen owing to the negligence by the successive state governments.
This market is believed to have been constructed by the Maharaja Ranbhir Singh in 1806, in an era when merchandise was transported on bullock carts to many Mandis (wholesale markets) of South Asia through the Jhelum Valley road (now called Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road).
The market falls in the congested area of the Downtown area of Srinagar city on the banks of River Jhelum and houses more than 2000 shops. Mahraj Gunj which once used to be the hub of commercial activities and abuzz with the people has lost its identity and craves for attention.
Talking to Agence India Press, President, Maharaj Gunj Traders Association, Ghulam Rasool Sheikh recalls the times when this market used to be the centre for commercial activities.
“Before 1947, this market was the centre of all commercial activities as goods worth crores of rupees were supplied from here to every market of the Valley. People from all corners of the Valley were coming here to make purchase, but now hardly any one prefers to come to this market, which has a history of more than 200 years,” Sheikh said.
Sheikh blamed the successive regimes for paying least attention towards this market.
“Maharaj Gunj market has been neglected by the authorities since late 1940’s. The government’s negligence turned things from bad to worse as they gave preference to uptown markets and totally ignored this historical market,” by adding he said, “The turmoil in the Valley during the last two decades also badly hit to this market.”
This historical market is also very famous because of Budshah Tomb, which has the six hundred years old graveyard of famous ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin and Kashmiris call him as Budshah.
“This market houses more than 2000 shops and all essential commodities are available here but due to lack of direct transport, people mostly prefer uptown markets to make purchase there. And the situation is such that near about 85 per cent of shops have zero counter sale while rest run on debt,” said Mohammad Ashraf Nakeeb, a local shop keeper.
Turning nostalgic, Farooq Ahmad, a cloth merchant recalls good old days when this market used to be main importer of goods from all parts of the world.“We would import goods from England, Germany and from many other countries, which wouldn’t have been even available in big markets of India.”
Mohammad Yaseen, a shopkeeper of Mahraj Gunj told this agency that ‘last year, we heard that the state government has declared this market as a heritage site. It was a good step, but no efforts were being made for the up-gradation of Maharaj Gunj.’
Muhammad Ramzan, a local trader of Maharaj Gunj claimed that they were paying more taxes as compared to other markets but still ‘Government is not spending a single penny towards the upliftment of Maharaj Gunj.’
He claimed that there were only five street lights and the entire markets get closed after the sun sets in.
“The condition of roads is worse and there is no parking facility available, which is stopping the customers from coming here,” he added.
Maharaj Gunj traders association claimed that they made frequent appeals to the authorities for up-gradation of basic facilities in the market, but to no avail.
While as the locals blame the lack of electricity, transport and congested roads as the main reason for market’s downfall and even some of the business men have moved to uptown markets for trade. (AIP News)
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