Around 118 street food stalls from across the country and a footfall of 18,000 in the past two days defined Delhi’s third edition of Street Food Festival that began at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium grounds here on Friday.
Organised by the National Association for Street Vendors of India – NASVI – the fest is aimed at bringing food vendors together and influence policy makers to transform it into a secure sector.
The families, after paying Rs. 30 as entry fee and purchasing food coupons of Rs. 10 each, were seen thronging the stalls from Assam, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and also Pakistan.
Among the most in demand were Bihar’s litti-chokha and Karachi’s mughal cuisine, which actually came from Darya Ganj in the Walled City of Delhi, said the cook quickly sticking rotis into the tandoor, “Six months ago, some Pakistani chefs had come to Delhi and they taught us their signature cuisines. We are selling extremely well.”
Pragya Joshi, a Delhi-based student from Lucknow, was at the tail end of long queue for litti-chokha, “In Delhi, we don’t get litti-chokha at most food corners. In Lucknow, I used to get it regularly, so I miss it in Delhi. So, I think it’s worth waiting for,’ she said.
Some sellers were seen busy making undue profits, for instance, one piece of jalebi for Rs. 20, and one small sweet bhajia from Odisha for Rs. 30, deterred many.
Not everything in the fest was hunkydory though. One noticed several empty stalls, especially from Lucknow and Chandigarh. Vikas Sexena, the cook from Lucknow was seen sitting alone guarding empty stalls.
“We didn’t get raw material on time on both days. When we got them at 12 a.m, the quantity was very less. The fest began around 2 p.m, and we finished our delicacies like mughal biryani, boti kabab with roomali roti and lehsun ki kheer by 3 p.m. It’s a big loss for us.” he moaned.
A butter chicken seller from Punjab echoed, “Since the raw material came late, I lost customers worth Rs. 20,000 as they went back without eating.”
Seeing this correspondent jotting down notes, a homemaker Pooja Sharma from Gurgaon queried, “Can you also write about the bad management please? See, just two mobile toilets for thousands of people. They are extremely dirty.”
She also complained about the absence of dustbins and food plates strewn everywhere, sticking to people’s feet.
“There are no paper tissues, so people are wiping their hands with table clothes, and leaving their used plates on them. There is no monitoring on such a mess.”
Students like Noirita, Deekhsha and Annaya are upset about non-refundable coupons if one couldn’t use it on a particular day. “Coupons don’t have date on them; still we can’t use them on the next day. Since the food is not good, we want to return them. Together we bought coupons worth Rs.600 and we are left with coupons worth Rs.300. We thought we would taste some real street chaat as the festival boasts of, but we are disappointed,” the trio says in consonance.
Mr. Arbind Singh, the Coordinator NASVI, admitted some major shortcomings spoiled some spirit of the festival, “We couldn’t bring stalls from Jammu and Kashmir and Udaipur for some reasons. We avoided the refund of coupons fearing duplicacy. Someone could print them and sell them back to us. But next year we will graduate to card swipe system, more hygienic spaces with better house-keeping arrangements.”
The festival concludes on Sunday night.