The term ‘Floating Market’ immediately brings to our mind the image of Dal Lake of Kashmir with its beautiful ‘shikaras’ or even the floating market of Pattaya, creating a mesmerising view. On 24 January 2018, Kolkata became the first and only metropolitan city of the country to have its own floating market. Set up on a lake in Baishnabghata, Patuli, just by the EM Bypass, the market operates solely on boats, selling everything from fruits, vegetables, fish and meat to daily household grocery items. To add to the marvel, there’s a salon and bedding store as well. The market has a total of 228 sellers, carrying out their activities on 114 boats
Back in 2015, when Arup Chakraborty was elected as the local councillor of ward no. 110 at Patuli, discussions on the widening of EM Bypass was underway. The only hurdle to that plan was the Jheelpar Bazar that operated alongside EM Bypass between Patuli and Dhalai bridge. And widening of this stretch would not have been possible without appropriately rehabilitating the stall owners of that market. In an effort to resolve this crisis, Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim consulted Arup Chakraborty who suggested the market be shifted to the lake alongside, which would fulfill the minister’s vision of a floating market in Kolkata without depriving the stall owners of their regular customers. “Our Urban Development Minister visited and surveyed a floating market in Pattaya and his vision of setting up a similar market in Kolkata was actualized when amidst discussions on rehabilitation of the Patuli Jheelpar Bazar during the widening of EM Bypass, I suggested them to be shifted to the lake adjacent to the existing bazar,” conferred Arup Chakraborty.
Work on setting up of the floating market started in June 2016 and was supervised by KMDA. A total of Rs 9 crores was spent on setting up of the market that runs 500 meters in length and 50 meters in breadth and has been divided into 4 sections. Two adjacent lakes were merged into one to accommodate all the 228 sellers who got possession of their respective shops through lottery, a day before the inauguration of the market. To make it easier for customers to navigate along the market, wooden walkways have been constructed that run crisscrossing the waterbody. Cleanliness of the lake itself being a major issue, two aerators have been fitted in along with water fountains to pump in oxygen and keep the aquatic eco-system rejuvenated at all times. The walkways over the water and on the sides are cleaned on a regular basis which has rendered the market with a charming freshness.
Boats are anchored in front of the walkways with every boat carrying two stalls. There are four distinct sections of the market; vegetables, groceries, fish and meat and fruits. Set-up on boats, the stalls are a few meters away from the customers, who would have to solely rely on their sight. Even though the stall owners voluntarily hand out the products to their customers for a better judgement, some are less than convinced. “I like to sort out and choose vegetables with my hand before buying like I’m used to but here I do not have that option,” said Amitava Dasgupta, a local resident. But that sentiment is shared only by a few buyers as majority are happy with the look and feel of the market and especially the cleanliness as Satyaki Ghosh pointed out, “I’ve been coming to this market even though there’s a market near my block. The floating market is not congested like the others and I like the experience of walking on these wooden walkways, buying my daily needs.”
Contrary to a rumored belief of many, prices at the floating market are not higher than they are at regular markets. In fact, in a bid to bring in more customers to their stall, some of the sellers have even reduced their prices from the rest, “we have a couple of competing markets nearby and to attract more customers especially during the morning hours, some of us have reduced our prices from the general rate prevalent everywhere else,” confided a fish seller. Evenings at the floating are usually jam packed with buyers and tourists flocking in to buy and experience this initiative. Even though mornings are comparatively a bit dull on the business front, stall owners are optimistic that sale will pick up with time.
There’s a certain touristy vibe to the market in its inherent nouveau nature and is something that has got people coming in from all parts of the city. The authorities are even banking on the market, bringing in more tourists to the city as well. The only aspect of concern is the fact that the market is right under the sun. Albeit shopkeepers have their shades, it’s quite inconvenient for the customers to do their shopping in the scorching summer or in slashing monsoons unless sun/rain shades are provided on the walkways.
With Kolkata municipality joining hands with the KMDA for waste management, the fresh look of the market is set to prevail and hopefully a walkway shade would soon be installed.
The recent developmental drive at Kolkata has seen many new additions to the city. The floating market at Patuli has accomplished a four-in-one-action –rehabilitation of the disposed shopkeepers, beautification of the city, utilisation of two stagnant lakes and subsequently and most importantly, extension of the EM Bypass. The floating market of Kolkata has not only become a sight to marvel at, but has also set an example for many more of such markets to emerge and flourish in the near future.
The Floating Market
Pond Block H, Baishnabghata Patuli, Kolkata 700094
(Patuli-EM Bypass crossing)
Timing: 6 am to 10 pm
Parking: On adjacent lanes
Note: Smoking is prohibited inside the market