Shillong was the capital of undivided Assam until the creation of the new state of Meghalaya on 21 January 1972. With typically pleasant and pollution free city, Shillong has always been an important tourist destination not just for the entire North East India but also for national and international tourists.
In 2022, the Travel and Tourism Fair (TTF) and the India International Travel Mart had awarded Meghalaya as the “Most Promising New Destination’ and the ‘Best Promotion in Rural Tourism’ respectively and since then Shillong the state capital has always seen increase in tourist footfall all round the year.
Shillong being one of the fastest growing cities in the North East region has always witnessed tourists of all kinds throng to the city to relieve themselves from their daily hectic lives. Since the inception of Shillong as the state capital, there are always two places which strike the minds of people and this place includes Iewduh (Bara Bazar) and Khyndai Lad or Police Bazar.
The starting point of the Police Bazaar is right from the Traffic Police Box as the area is the most crowded in the city, there are Police personnel are needed to maintain the flow of traffic, both vehicles and people.
It can be said that the term Police Bazaar was termed by non-local people in the early years as they have always witnessed a large number of police personnel throng the marker areas, but they fail to notice that Police Bazaar is situated just a distance away from Shillong District Jail and Sardar Police Station.
Khyndai Lad or Police Bazar is the major market of Shillong and a popular shopping haunt for locals and tourists alike. The buzzing endless corners in Police Bazar have always left the tourist and locals in awe, as the markets or the shopping malls are well laid out in the form of a huge circle right in the middle of the Police Bazaar with plants and trees surrounded by 7 roads going away from the circle to the different points in the city.
Almost the entire area in Police Bazaar is the prime shopping hub in Shillong as the bazaar is a blend of traditional as well as modern items, be it from food items, clothing, traditional handicrafts stores, exquisite Meghalaya merchandise, regional apparels, junk jewellery, and others.
In the post 21th century, many state governments had tried to come up with various policies to maintain the beauty of Khyndai Lad or Police Bazaar and in 2016, the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) had taken up the initiative to implement the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
Under the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, the SMB had come up with the ‘Operation Zero Litter’ in order to turn the area around Khyndailad or Police Bazaar into a litter free zone.
Similarly on 4th April 2023, the newly appointed Minister in-charge of Tourism, Paul Lyngdoh, during his inspection at Police Bazaar, had announced that the state government is in process to declare Police Bazaar as a “Pedestrian Zone” and a “No Honking Zone’.
The minister had expressed that Shillong city in particular has become toxic, and pedestrians are facing difficulties in walking and this issue needs to be addressed especially since Shillong is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations not just in the North East but in the entire country as a whole.
It is a fact that Khyndailad or Police Bazar will be a challenge to explore especially for new tourists as it is the crowded marketa area in Shillong and even local people at times face difficulties to enter the area.
Honking is not an issue just in commercial markets but it has become a headache and has become a major problem for hospitals and educational institutions all over the city.
The move of the state government to make Police Bazar a pedestrian zone has received positive response from shopkeepers, hawkers and market goers and even tour operators and tourists have always stressed the need to have such areas in the state capital which is free of vehicles. It is a fact that tourists be it local, national or international will always look toward Police Bazaar as the market has always been an attraction to the eyes especially during the late evening.
To fulfill the motive of converting Police Bazar as a pedestrian zone, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma during the budget session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly had announced to invest Rs. 25 crore for a world class Skywalk from Khyndailad or Police Bazar to Barik point.
The chief minister had announced that the state government will try to connect other parts of the city with Skywalks in order to facilitate pedestrian movement across the city.
“The government will try to connect Police Bazaar via Skywalk from Barik, maybe another Skywalk to Laitumkhrah and Motphran as this will encourage our people to walk more instead of taking their vehicles to Police Bazaar” said the Chief Minister.
Even though most hawkers doing business in Police Bazaar hail the decision to make the commercial area a pedestrian zone, the Meghalaya & Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association (MGSPHSVA) has alleged that allowing vehicles to ply along the hawker zone right in front of Police Bazaar has created inconveniences not just for the hawkers, but also for people passing through this lane.
The secretary of MGSPHSVA, Shane Thabah, alleged that allowing vehicles to ply through the vendors’ zone is an indication of harassment towards hawkers, as it has limited the space for them to carry on with their daily livelihood.
Thabah said that most tourists love to walk around Police Bazaar and have a chat with hawkers, but now, due to the plying of vehicles, it has created inconveniences for everyone to even have a safe walk without constantly looking out for their safety.
People residing and doing business in and around Police Bazaar welcome the decision of making it a pedestrian and no-honking zone, but at the same time, they suggest that the state government should make it a reality and not just a mere verbal promise.
Speaking to daily commuters through Police Bazaar, they have suggested that the Shillong Traffic Police should stop vehicles from plying through the hawker zone.
Nangsan Kharumnuid, who has been in the clothing business since 2003 in Police Bazaar, expressed that people are still confused about which vehicles are allowed to ply through the hawker zone right in the middle of the commercial vicinity.
Kharumnuid said that most people, whether tourists or locals, love to take a stroll in Police Bazaar, but now with vehicles plying through the vicinity, people are afraid of getting hit by vehicles. Although there have been no reported injuries, it has created inconveniences for everyone.