When you walk on a busy street, with wide range of smell and noise grades, you probably are walking through an Indian market street. Vegetable vendors whooping to sell their produce before it dies, fruit vendors enticing you by displaying fancy cut fruits, the noise of scooters honking at everyone and suddenly that awful smell of waste produce garbage(d) at the end of the street; such is the stage as you walk pass Sethu Rao road, on the west side of Krishna Rajendra Market building in Bangalore. Indian market streets serve more than a public space; it brings out equality, diversity and economic ties of the city. Street vendors play a vital role in choreographing this stage by making the streets safer through incessant inflow of population, ensuring exchange of culture as people from vibrant background come to perform activities and shape the urban spatial fabric of the city. Bengaluru is known as India’s fastest growing economic and cultural metropolitan hub. Although booming with opportunities, the public transport system and urban planning is crippling, marked by urban sprawl, since more than a decade. However, the essence and local businesses continues to be.
In 2015, Ministry of Urban Development launched “National Smart City Mission” that included retrofitting and reviving 100 Indian cities aiming to develop into smart cities. Government of India along with State governments funded rejuvenation project around cities to meet the objective of the mission. The scale of projects varies based on the urban fabrics of individual cities. The smart city projects in Bengaluru, which are precedented by urban sprawl and poor urban planning, are about road works, market developments, transit hubs, retrofitting of buildings, area development and lake developments. The question is, how do Indian market street, marked by traditional dimensions sustain the “smart growth”?
Krishna Rajendra Market in Bangalore, famously known as K. R. Market, not only rules as the heart of the city, but also is one of the oldest markets in India. The 16th century king, Kempegowda I marked the streets of Pete (market) area across cardinal directions. On the South end of these streets, he laid his fort and an open market space meant for traders to conduct business from all over Karnataka. The market activities were then, and are still, supported by its connection to regional network (road), now known as Mysore road. Since then, this market space has gone through many transformations, stimulated by developments and changing political perceptions. However, the essence of the market, that is, the traders carrying out day to day business still continues to be.
Source: Jana Urban Space Foundation
The smart city proposal for K. R. Market looks into themes, such as, mobility, heritage, economy and environmental. However, with respect to the context of a dense market space, the proposal fails to consider the social aspect. An informally dominated market space, where thousands of stakeholders (buyers, sellers and traders) come to do their business on daily basis; how can a proposal not consider a people-centric design? Couldn’t the proposal be more inclusive of the stakeholders? Below is the list of prospective issues that could crash the purpose of the proposal.
Walkability: The traders who come from various parts of Karnataka to sell their produce/ items using bus, carry kilos of weight on their shoulders. Some of them also bring trolleys to drag around. A skywalk (E) from bus terminal to vending space would make it more difficult for a trader to carry. Similarly, the traders who bring truckloads of items usually park next to the place of display. A docking station (B) again would make it difficult to carry the sale items to the place of vending. Consequently, the sellers will end up making their own desired (shortest) path, which would be less draining for them. The proposed design, hence, fails to contemplate the issues of one of the primary stakeholders, the sellers.
Visibility: In 1990, when the market building came up, all the vendors were legally given shops inside the market building. However, the vendor’s business suffered due to lack of visibility. Consequently, the vendors rented out their shops and moved back to the streets. There are more than 4000 different categories of vendors currently vending on the streets. The proposed design clearly doesn’t not accommodate all the vendors on streets and hence, again raises the question of equal visibility for all vendors.
Permeability: The clear logical reason why vendors come back on the streets every time they are relocated by the authorities is permeability. They get through and through business on the streets. The streets around K. R. Market building sells fresh produce. The selling point of these vegetables and fruits is their freshness and prices. If the vendors, buyers and other stakeholders cannot get business on the spot, they tend to become uncomfortable and consequently, shift to better locations for business. This would again create the same situation as it is now.
Waste and Hygiene management: Though the proposed design gives a spatial design for waste management, the design fails to understand the origins of waste. Vendors who come from nearby villages cannot afford to travel every day along with loads of produce on their shoulders. The vendor usually stays back for a few days until all his/ her produce is sold out and only then goes back to his/ her village. With no hostel and/ or housing facility provided to them, they tend to hang out on the streets all night and litter around. Wouldn’t it be meaningful to provide hostel and sanitary facilities on the upper floors of market building instead of multi-story parking?
In summary, the main argument is to propose a design, sensitive to its stakeholders. Working on the theme of economy, did not serve the stakeholders in the past, and would not be able to serve in the future. The important aspect to note is that vending is still an informal activity in India. The smart city proposal which ideally aims to better organize the area, is not the major concern of the area’s stakeholders. Meeting their daily needs by earning a livelihood is the primary concern of the people. If the design is not considerate of the stakeholder, it ought to fail again.
About The Author
Shikha Patel is an Urban Design, currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Planning. She is interested in people centric design and specializes in community planning. Her passion as an urban researcher has led her to contribute to various research projects in India and Qatar.
Author LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shikha-patel-6891074b/