Sunday, March 29, 2015

A park for street foods? Odissa steals the show!

Whoever has thought of the latest "street food park" concept, being planned in Orissa deserves full marks for addressing an issue that poses multidimensional challenges to the civic authorities all across the country ever since India became an independent country. If reports are to be believed the Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) in Orissa is "set" to launch such a park in the city within a month by providing some minimum infrastructure to enable street vendors to serve safe foods to the citizens there without affecting the pedestrian cross walks or the traffic nearby. CMC is also promising to provide necessary facilities like potable water supply, adequate cleaning water, lighting, toilet rooms and waste disposal system. It was not long ago that this Blogger suggested in one of the blogs about setting up a series of food plazas in almost all cities in the country away from busy thoroughfares within the city with suitable infrastructure so that city centers are not cluttered unnecessarily, adversely affecting smooth flow of both vehicular as well as the pedestrian traffic. Unfortunately such constructive suggestions never reach the ears of our politicians who have their own agenda and -priorities when it comes to spending public funds. There fore the developments in Cuttack should gladden the hearts of many progressive people in the country. Here is a take on this new development happening in one of the backward states of the country. . 

"The civic body has decided to set up the exclusive food park on Baliyatra ground, adjacent to the Mahanadi river bed, where food lovers can enjoy delicious and mouth-watering delicacies of the Millennium City such as dahibara, aludum and gupchup without being worried about falling ill.  The infrastructure of the street food park will be set up at a cost of Rs 10 lakh. Besides lighting arrangements, the CMC will ensure supply of safe drinking water to the park and some beautification work of the area. Toilet facilities and a garbage disposal system will also be put in place. The civic body officials said licences would be issued to the street food vendors to do business in the park and food inspectors will regularly monitor the quality of food. "We will start work on the street food park project within a month. The ground is used only during Baliyatra so we can easily accommodate the street food hawkers on it by creating the necessary infrastructure," said Gyana Ranjan Das, CMC commissioner.  Das said the food park would be made to look attractive to ensure footfall of food lovers and tourists. "Ensuring hygiene and cleanliness at the food park will be our priority," said a senior CMC officer". 

While appreciating such new initiatives especially in the government sector, one has to bear with some skepticism regarding the practicalities of such a revolutionary proposal. For example the place identified for setting up the Park is already being used by some sections of society for different activities and whether the new proposal will elicit protests from them remains to be seen. Similarly providing food inspection arrangement by frequent visits by the food vigilance officers is indeed a good thought, though how far in practice such inspections and action against defaulters will happen is uncertain. In stead it will be more effective if at least one dedicated food inspection officer is posted permanently to look after the quality and safety of products as well as the services offered by the participating vendors. Licensing must be hassle free and affordable to the micro entrepreneurs who come forward to invest in the Park. In stead of initiating legal proceedings against defaulters, it is worth trying for settling quality complaints within the park premises amicably through a committee system represented by the vendors and the CMC officers. Training program included in the plan is commendable as most violations take place out of ignorance and persuasive efforts can bring rich dividends.All said and done, here is a model being attempted in Cuttack and if successful deserves to be replicated throughout the country. .  


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