Impact of food-poisoning death on wayside eateries

The times are not good for the food vendors in the streets of the capital city Thiruvananthapuram. Already facing action from authorities, including the police, as part of attempts to ensure hygiene and to maintain law and order, the sector is anticipating tougher days as more operational norms are to be brought into force.

The turmoil created by a recent food-poisoning death has had its impact not just on big eateries, but also on the little pushcart and makeshift ‘thattukada’ traders as well. They, who stay awake while the rest of the city sleeps, serving spicy omelettes, piping hot ‘dosas,’ and steaming tea to late-night office-goers, the IT people, and other passers-by, are now worried over their very existence.

“We do not have any problems in a stricter food safety regime coming. But yes, before that is brought into force, we would like the authorities to ensure basic facilities like supply of clean water, proper drainage garbage disposal facilities, and adequate power supply,” says Gopakumar, who operates a mini tea-stall adjacent to the compound wall of the Transport Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram.

Mr. Gopakumar, who has been in the business for 28 years now, says the ‘field’ is very competitive, and hence ‘99.99 per cent’ of his colleagues in the sector would be ready to embrace better hygiene practices to stay afloat.

“I have not faced any losses after the recent developments, since my clientele is largely the same set of people, including employees from the Transport Bhavan and surroundings. They know I offer only safe food. But it has not been the same for everyone,” he says, adding that many were reluctant to make more investments into what they already had because there was no guarantee that they would be allowed to continue.

Padmini, who runs a pushcart eatery along with her brother Manikandan near the Museum, is one among those hit hard by the raids, revelations, and their impact on public psyche.

“Our revenue on weekdays used to be around Rs.3,000 a day before all this. That has fallen to less than 1,000 now, and the profits are far lesser. On top of that, there are officials who tell us repeatedly that our surroundings are not hygienic. We submitted several complaints to the Corporation pointing out that there were no public toilets here and that garbage from the surroundings are washed towards our carts whenever it rains,” she says. The onus, many of them feel, is not just on them to make affairs better, but on civic authorities as well.

This article has been corrected for an editing error.