Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Street vendors do play a role in filling a gap for food service at low cost. No matter how much they are being denigrated, there is a substantial loyal followers appreciating their service. The organized catering industry to day is to be faulted for the greed their members are showing in escalating the prices at which foods are offered by them within the four walls of their facilities. In a democratic country adopting the liberalized economic regime, considered pro-business, there is no place for price control on consumer products as the atmosphere is one of competition. While processed food industry is shackled by the mandatory MRP declaration provision on the front of the pack, there is no such compulsion for catering industry to pre-inform the customers about the price tags for various preparations served inside their restaurant. Naturally there is a substantial segment of population not willing or affording to pay the extortionist prices by the organized restaurants which has opened up a fertile area of business for the low end street vendors. Here is a typical story coming from a small time town in Karnataka, located a few kilometers from Bangalore and one has to see to believe how vibrant and appreciative such small scale food vending can be, besides being a friend of low middle class citizens in the country!     

"Speaking about health factor, Singh said the oil is changed for various kinds of fritters. "The health of the customers is important for us too," he added. "We put the spices into a heated vessel. The raw fritters are dipped into the spices and immediately fried in oil." "Such snacks are in great demand in Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring states. But we are glad to find such demand for the fritters here too. It is a heartening for us since we are dependent on such customers for our livelihood," he explained. Manohar, a college student, said that part of the lure is that their native places do not have big hotels, and because such snacks are usually not prepared by small hotels and eateries. "There is almost no place were family members can gather and spend hours, chatting over a plate of eatables. We therefore depend on the roadside 'cooks' who prepare the fritters right in front of us and hand them to us in minutes," he said. "I join my friends outside the Junior College in the evenings to savour the snacks prepared on pushcarts. On weekends my family members too come to the spots to try out some new item." Siddaraju, a private company employee, concurred. "All hotels in our town close by 8 pm. Very often no food is available at any eatery. We necessarily have to approach the cooks with pushcarts, to get idlis, puris, spiced rice (chitranna), tamarind rice (puliyogare) and egg fried rice," he said. "Such food has become a part of the lifestyle of our City," he said. ( Quoted from Deccan Herald, January 28, 2013)

There may be many problems associated with street vending system including suspect hygienic environment and these problems, some real, some alleged, can be overcome if there is a sincere attempt by the local civic authorities to address them. In a recent incidence there was a report that one street vendor was killed by the ruthless police who live on the "moolah" extracted from these poor vendors! In many large cities in India, the street vending system is vanishing fast due to narrow roads, congested markets, police harassment, unsympathetic attitude of the civic authorities and many other factors. What is not understood is why in India street vending cannot be modernized when even in a country like the US Food Trucks, a glorified version of street vending is taking deep roots across major cities in there? Governments at Delhi as well as in the states have a social, economic and moral responsibility to address the issues concerned with street vending practices.

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