The India Trade Promotion Organisation’s decision to have the State food stalls under one roof at the ongoing India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan here has not gone down well with stall owners who are finding the plaza too congested for their liking.

“With the ITPO deciding to shift the State food stalls from their respective pavilions to ‘Bharat Ka Khana’ for the ongoing fair, we had no option but to agree to the new arrangement. But the space allotted to each State for cooking purposes is inadequate,” says Mehraj at the Jammu and Kashmir stall.

Stating that lack of sitting arrangement inside the hall was affecting business, Mehraj says wazwan is always served on a table. “Customers are our mehman and we like to treat them with respect. Earlier our customers could sit comfortably in the pavilion and try out our various delicacies. But now they have to carry their food outside the hall to eat. This is hampering our business,” adds Mehraj.

Echoing his views, Karuna Adhikari at the Uttarakhand food stall, says space constraint had resulted in poor customer response. “We cannot cook some of our traditional Kumaon and Garhwali dishes because of lack of space. Even though Uttarakhand is the focus State this year, the organisers have not given us special treatment. There is no cross ventilation and the drainage is choking in my stall,” she complains.

A representative from the Kerala food stall claims that earlier the stalls were five times bigger in size. “We’re finding it difficult to display our traditional dishes on the table as the place is swarming with flies. Lack of space has forced us to give up the idea of cooking idiappam.”

Khitish Das at the Orissa food stall says cooks are struggling to keep up with the demand because of space limitation. “We’re serving snacks and sweets right now because our main course needs a lot of space to prepare.”

However, the Pakistan food stall has been allotted sufficient space and a large number of people can be seen trying out the non-vegetarian delicacies throughout the day. In charge Nasr Khan is pleased that his country had been given a bigger independent space.

Visitor Tapan Chakraborty says he can understand ITPO’s concerns to shift food stalls from State pavilions because of the fire hazard, but feels that it should have chosen a bigger place for setting up the food plaza. As the number of visitors will swell over the weekend, those managing the food stalls will find it difficult to cater to so many people, he adds.

Visitor Gaurav Pandey feels that the earlier set-up was good. “Earlier every State pavilion had an added attraction in the form of food stalls where visitors could try our traditional dishes after taking a round of the pavilion. Senior citizens and children will find it difficult to walk all the way to the new food plaza,” he says.

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