Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Lahore has the distinction of having a Food Street which is supposed to concentrate all eateries in one street. This is a concept similar to Gold Sauk in the Gulf countries where people looking for a particular specialized group of items or services can visit and choose their requirements. There are similar specialized streets for electronic goods, house building materials, hard wares, etc in some cities where concerned wholesalers and retailers set up their shops. The Food Street in Lahore conceived with good intentions, seems to be attracting criticism from the customers who find it increasingly difficult to visit the place due to severe logistical problems and indifferent quality foods served there. It is time that civic authorities pay more attention to the grievances of the customers to make the experience of eating a pleasurable one. Here is a critique on the issue which should serve other similar ventures in future.   

The citizens have been seen complaining about the poor quality of food and ambiance in the eateries present in the newly formed food street, outlining massive traffic, noise and dust caused by the massive activity in the Gawalmandi area round the clock as the reasons for the decreased value of the food street. The old food street was one of the key attractions for locals across the metropolis as well as for the foreigner tourists. The district administration of the city had removed the gates and other decorations from both ends of the world-famous street, reportedly to teach a lesson to their political opponents who had initiated the famous food venue during the government of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. Talking to Daily Times, some of the visitors, Fawad, Waheed, Sobohi Gul, Sara and others said that the food street was utilised as a source of recreation and entertainment, especially by the youth. It served as a recreational outlet where people came and enjoyed desi food, forgetting all their worries for some time. "Lahoris have been deprived of a jewel and a source of recreation, and unfortunately at a time when the country is going through a economic, political and ethnic crises," Sara said, adding that the idea of the Lahore's food street had even been copied by other cities across the subcontinent. The citizens were also of the view that the decision of shutting down the food street by the current government was "visionless" as they were shutting down such a valuable venture merely to settle their political scores. They were of the view that things had changed from bad to worse in the area with poor quality of food and ambiance as the shopkeepers are forced to sell their products amid massive pollution, heavy traffic rush and deafening noise.

Generally street vending is concentrated in places where people congregate an these outlets usually small in size and portable in nature serve a purpose but the quality, safety and civic inconveniences are issues which concern many people. The Singapore experience is some thing from which good lessons can be learned and instead of earmarking a street it is far more preferable to set up Hawker Centers with modern amenities in strategic places where people can have their preferred foods under a relaxed environment. Delhi's Food Plaza cannot be a model for the simple reason that the fares served there are too expensive for common man to patronize regularly. Ideally each city should have Hawker Centers in strategic locations so that "eating out" ethnic foods made by skilled artisans becomes an experience by iteself.


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