Sunday, December 6, 2015

Street vendors-Sensitization and training, need of the hour

Street foods seem to be having a fascination for many consumers, though the products made under none too satisfactory conditions, may have potential health dangers at least for some of them with "weak bellies". Whether we like it or not street foods are here to stay and government may be right in closing its eyes towards the existence of such a flourishing businesses activitiy under its very nose across the country. From time to time seminars and workshops are held to "focus" on the problems and dangers of street foods and "recommendations" are made to improve the safety of foods catered by these vendors. There are even international programs to address the problems of street vending as it is a phenomenon common in many countries, especially in Asia. Why is that consumers are attracted to street foods like a magnet, ignoring the possible dangers lurking behind them? The answer is simple, the unique culinary pleasure experienced by them while eating these freshly made and hot foods made in front of them by artisans who excel in creating unique taste and flavor characteristic of many traditional Indian preparations, most of them being not available in regular restaurants. Besides this sector provides gainful earning opportunities to millions of self employed people to eke out a decent living. It is in this context we have to understand the compulsions governments world over have to nurture this sector without seriously impinging on the civic amenities that could be affected by their operations in the pavements meant to be for pedestrianwalking in crowded urban areas.

"With an aim to train street food vendors on cleanliness and hygiene, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) recently organized a workshop in the city. Their training also included various aspects of food preservation techniques. "We were already aware of the cleanliness aspect, but NASVI taught us how to present any food in the right way," said Shyam Sundar, one of the street food vendors. NAVI also distributed I-cards among the registered street food vendors. The workshop was part of the National Street Food Festival that concluded on December 28.When asked what they benefitted from this workshop, the vendors said it helped them increase their profits. "Now, when customers see us wearing gloves and aprons, they believe we serve better quality food than others," said Satish, owner of Satish Snacks in Sarojini Nagar. Gulab Singh, a bhelpuri vendor at India Gate, said though he had gone to Singapore to train the staff of a hotel on bhelpuri making, he was unaware about the tricks of the trades till NASVI taught him. The vendors who are registered with the organization will receive a certificate. They will receive licences once they are found conforming to the cleanliness norm laid down by the civic body. Then they will be allowed to put up their stalls at various places in the city.  Meanwhile, 'Street Saathi', a food book, was launched during the festival, which features all the vendors trained by NASVI. It contains pictures and recipes of various food items. The best part of the book is that it not only tells people about various street food and their preparations, but also sheds light on the lives of the vendors". 

The workshop may be relevant in the context of wide scale misgivings about the safety of these foods and the clientele now enjoying the services of these vendors must be minimum with only adventurous customers patronizing them regularly. If such workshops are held in all the towns and cities in the country more frequently, the quality and safety of the foods made by them will naturally get upgraded in the long term. Civic authorities have a great responsibility in regulating these vendors as they can pose a serious congestion problem with pedestrian and vehicular traffic affected adversely. A master plan for regulating them must be drawn and minimum facilities required by them to ensure food safety must be provided. Strict overseeing of their activities is also necessary. Use of potable water, cleaning of reusable plates and cups and cookwares and waste disposal logistics must be monitored regularly. Recent advent of mobile food vans presents another opportunity for urban dining and snacking and it is time that serious planning is done at the local authorities level to standardize their activities and fixing places where they can park for serving foods. Food Processing Industry Ministry and the Tourism Ministry at Delhi can play a vital role in helping the state governments by designing suitable models of mobile vans with required facilities and laying down national guidelines for their efficient functioning.


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