With the process of registration of street vendors having begun in Delhi about 10 days ago, the prospects of hygienic food being served by roadside eateries has increased manifold in the Capital.
“We are in direct competition with multi-national companies as they are taking away bulk of the young food lovers with their reasonable offerings and talk of hygiene. So now we are encouraging street food vendors to adopt high standards of food safety and hygiene to compete with the best in business, even if it means recovering some of the additional costs through slightly increased prices,” said Ranjit Abhigyan of National Association of Street Vendors of India, which has been spearheading the campaign for the rights of all street vendors.
As part of the programme, eight areas have been identified across Delhi by the Department of Food Safety of Delhi Government to be developed as “Safe Street Food Zones” where vendors are being encouraged to adopt high standards of hygiene. “Simple things work: like you can have a glass cover around your kiosk to keep out flies and dust, or the staff can be asked to wear a cap or gloves at all times. The vendors are being told that more people will throng their kiosks on finding their food hygienic.”
The reason why a change in the street food profile looks a distinct possibility now is that it has taken much of its inspiration from Singapore, where high standards of hygiene are maintained.
“Eight street vendors from India had participated in the World Street Food Festival there last June and during the educative exercise they were exposed to the practices there,” said Mr. Abhigyan, adding that “even Indian participants at the festival had matched international standards. If they can do it there, why not here?”
Sharad Shrivastava, Managing Director of dStor Technologies, who is a Singapore resident, currently living in Gurgaon, agreed: “I can eat a South Indian breakfast, a Chinese lunch and a continental dinner at the same hawker centre in one day. And all cooked home-style. The variety and quality of food that is readily available at the hawker centres in Singapore is something that I and my family really miss.” But he is hopeful that soon the Indian street food scene would also change for the better.
For the Delhi vendors though, investment in upgrading remains a major issue. A chat seller in Mayur Vihar, Harish Kumar, said: “We try to keep our carts and counters as clean as possible. But we really can’t do much about the dust and filth around us. Things have to be looked at in totality. We are willing to put in some money. But the least the government can do is stop the police and municipal staff from fleecing us regularly.”