Most family outings in the city usually end up on a rendezvous with roadside stalls either for a ‘chat-pata chaat’ or a quick delicious snack. Indeed, the city is famous for its culinary dishes and street food vendors play a major role in the city’s eco-system.
In spite of this role of catering to many people on a daily basis, the street food vendors are the most neglected lot in the city, Anne Dahmen, coordinator for Sustainable Hyderabad Project (SHP) observes. Anne, a German research scholar, has been working on the problems and issues faced by the street vendors in Hyderabad since 2009.
Street vendors have a very peculiar condition in the city, Anne points out. “Street food joints cater to a majority of people in the city and if these outlets are removed, the cost that one has to bear and the effort that one has to put in scouting for affordable food would be huge,” she points out.
Unlike restaurants, where people go to eat, street food vendors identify a place where there is an unfulfilled demand and open their stall, hence these entrepreneurs are very important for the city, she explains.
Some people are suspicious of the quality of food that these food vendors provide, while others, particularly government officials, view them nothing less than a nuisance in the public space. This, Anne says, is because of lack of legal sanction for this profession.
“From the moment a person starts a street food counter he has to face many troubles and one of the most important problems he faces is lack of knowledge about the policy provisions available for them along with the legal issues they have to follow,” she says.
On one hand, street food vendors face the threat of eviction on a daily basis because of a lack of legal recognition to their profession. On the other, vendors are also not aware of following legal requirements like Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, she explains.
“When compared to smaller hotels and restaurants, street food is safer as the customers can see the process of food preparation. With proper training, street food can be a source of sustenance for many families in the city,” she says.
As a pilot project, SHP, in collaboration with Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, trained four street vendors from four categories of street food – Chaat, ‘mirchi’ based snacks, Chinese fast food and ‘tiffins’. They in turn trained about 80 vendors in their own categories.
According to M. Vijay Kumar, one of the initial four food vendors who were trained under the ‘Aarogya’ scheme, his sales have gone up by an average of Rs. 800 to Rs. 1,000 per day after he implemented the training lessons.
“There are about 18,000 street food vendors in the city and if these results can be replicated for all these vendors, the economic benefit accruing to these many families will be phenomenal,” Anne explains.
To achieve this objective, there is a need to change the way street food vending is viewed among the people, she says. “Currently officials view the issue more as a regulatory problem, whereas to improve the sector there is a need for them to make the process more participatory,” she adds.
However, they face eviction threat on a daily basis as there is no legal recognition to their trade