Delhi to lead way in street food

18 May 2007, 1952 hrs IST, IANS
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NEW DELHI: From exclusive hawker zones to strict vending timings, from sanitized aloo tikkis (potato cutlets) to clean cutlery, the street food culture of Delhi is all set for a "clean" makeover with the rest of the country to follow soon.

In the capital, it's probably time to say goodbye to all those small time snacks like gol guppa, samosas, jalebi and aloo tikkis just down the road, which the city had begun to be identified with.

With the Supreme Court's acceptance of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD) scheme for regularized urban street vendors, the bustling roads and pedestrian lanes of Delhi, thanks to the street food vendors, will finally get a breather.

This move will also ensure that the cauldron of flies and innumerable germs that the street fare hosts will be done away with. Health problems like cholera and jaundice from the unclean water used by the street food vendors has always been a major concern among the people.

Fixed vending sites and fixed timings for selling, which could be changed depending on the weather conditions, will be implemented. The Supreme Court has, however, asked the MCD to re-consider timings as far as the railway and the bus stands are concerned since these places remain busy all the time.

Also, timings for vendors to enter residential colonies will be fixed after consultation with the residents welfare associations. The timing for vendors in general has been fixed from eight in the morning to nine at night.

While approving the scheme on Thursday, the apex court directed the civic agencies to strictly maintain the width of the footpath up to five feet for pedestrians before allotting any site for vending.

The move, has, but obviously, not gone down well with the vendors with most complaining that it will hit their livelihood badly. A vendor selling samosas in Old Delhi said that this is his lifeline and most rickshaw pullers nearby depended on his fare as well.

"I survive on the street food because I simply can't afford anything else," said a rickshaw puller. "I earn about Rs.100 a day of which half goes in paying for rent of the rickshaw, so I survive on the roadside samosas and puris ," he added.

"Delhi is known for its street food. Frankly I can't imagine eating gol guppas dripping with saline mineral water," said Pankhi Singha, a student and a self proclaimed street food fan.

But for others, it is a welcome move. "Finally there will be some order on the roads of Delhi," said Amrita Sharma, a law student. "On one hand we are trying to become a global city and on the other we have maddening traffic, choked roads and no lanes to walk. Moreover, maintenance of minimum standard of hygiene is of utmost importance," she said.

Welcoming the apex court's nod of approval, Vijendra Gupta, chairman of the MCD standing committee, said this decision would help nearly 250,000 people earn a livelihood without getting exploited.

In a statement released Thursday, Gupta said that MCD gives licenses to hawkers and a survey carried out by an NGO, Manushi, revealed that unlicensed hawkers get exploited by policemen and municipal employees who extract money from them. Hence this policy will help protect those hawkers from getting exploited.

It also said that "the benefit of the hawking policy will be given to those which are carrying out hawking at present and it will be ensured that in future their number shall not increase so that city-planning of Delhi is not disturbed".

While the capital gears up for the makeover, the rest of the country is not far behind.

P. V. Suvrathan, secretary of ministry of food processing industries, announced that a pilot project enforcing bureau of Indian standards (BIS) norms on street food will be launched in eight cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Targetting 6,000 vendors in each of the cities, to begin with, the project aims to have vendors follow certain minimum standards in food preparation, which will ensure basic hygiene.

From washing their hands to washing the used cutlery properly to ensuring only clean water is used for cooking and even a standard size of serving is maintained, the norms will ensure the hygiene factor.

"Only after all these standards are met, the vendors will get accreditation," said Suvrathan. Since training the vendors, most of who are illiterate, is a mammoth task, NGOs will be roped in for the task. This will help the vendors file their application for accreditation with ease.
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