Tuesday, January 31, 2012


It is only in India that governments, whether local, regional or federal,come in the way of developing entrepreneurial talents to its full blossom. Though the old "Permit and Licensing"  regime was supposed to have been progressively brought down after the bold economic liberalization policy of early nineteen nineties, nothing much seems to have changed at the ground level when it comes to small scale entrepreneurs in the food sector struggling to eke out an existence against the powerful MNCs and big fish already well established with many incentives by the government to increase investment in food industry at "any cost". The corrupt bureaucracy which holds the power strings to make or break an industry through manipulation of rules, obviously has less sympathy for the small players because of the limited capacity of the latter to pay "grease money" for getting what is legitimately due as per constitution. Here is a typical example of what is happening in the country under the very nose of the Prime Minister who rarely sees such things except for expressing his sympathies belatedly through "hollow" words!   

The Delhi high court on Monday put DDA and MCD on notice over the absence of a coherent policy for parking and licensing of food catering vans in the city. Justice Hima Kohli pulled up both the agencies for "complete chaos" and wondered why there is no single-window clearance system in place for van owners to obtain required permissions. Giving a day's time to MCD and DDA to come clear, HC noted, "There is complete chaos whenever two agencies are involved. Why isn't there a system in place for parking and licensing of the vans, why can't there be a single-window clearance so that people don't have to go to authorities for clearance," Kohli said, posting the matter for hearing on Tuesday. HC was hearing a plea by a group of van owners who moved the court challenging the "arbitrary and unjust" manner in which they were evicted out by the civic agencies from Dwarka. According to the authorities these vans parked in various sectors of Dwarka were responsible for traffic congestion and caused a parking mess and were therefore shifted. However, the petitioners through advocate Manjit Singh Ahluwalia argued that the civic agencies had no policy to follow with respect to mobile food vans that permitted them to resort to high-handedness.

Catering is a business dominated by micro enterprises which are omnipotent by their presence in every corner of the country and the street vending phenomenon is traditionally accepted by the consumers, especially those coming from the "aam admi" category with low income. Why should the government agencies harass them is a point that must be addressed at the national level. Licensing is an unavoidable feature of safety management system but it must be simple and affordable. How many violations the Delhi Government had detected vis-s-vis food safety during the last 3 years and how many culprits had been brought to book?  Wielding power comes with responsibility which is rarely "understood" and if the court finds these babus of dereliction of duty they must be punished severely for failing in their assigned role of facilitating the small scale food business activities. While the above case focuses on Delhi, same is true every where in the country. One can hope that suitable lesson will be learned from the strictures from Supreme Court


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