Special Correspondent

What `darshinis' say Price of 17-kg gas cylinders has gone upIncrease in price of eatables came about because vegetables have become costlier

Bangalore: There are so many of them one does not know their exact number. Some busy roads have more than one, and every neighbourhood can boast of three or four.

The ubiquitous "darshini", which is an "order, get token, grab your tray and stand and eat kind of place, is "Udupi" gone the fast food way. And for those who thought eating at these places was both fast and cheap, it has come as a dampener to find out that prices have gone up suddenly.

In many "darshinis", a plate of idlis that used to cost Rs. 6 have now become Rs. 8; rava idlis have gone up from Rs. 8 to Rs. 11or Rs. 12 and other items such as uddina vade and bondas, Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 more for each plate. Coffee and tea remain at Rs. 5 but some have increased it to Rs. 6. Dosas cost Rs. 10 now against Rs. 8 earlier.

One main reason given by most managers of these eateries is that the 17-kg gas cylinders, which they use, now cost Rs. 920 through authorised outlets. Under the law, they cannot use the smaller cylinders meant for households and coming at a subsidised rate. There have been too many raids by the Food and Civil Supplies Department and the petroleum companies to ensure this rule is not violated. Most "darshinis" use four or five cylinders a day as they stay open from around 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. or 9.30 p.m. Most close only one day in a week - Mondays in residential areas and Sundays in commercial areas. A few are open all seven days. Some managers say the price increase came about because vegetables became costlier since the end of October and have not come down yet. The prices of rice and dal too have remained steady with no signs of coming down.

The high price of onions, now about Rs. 20 a kg if bought in bulk, and other vegetables and chillies have forced them to increase prices, they say.

Prices of pulses used in the batter for idlis and dosas have gone up within a month from Rs. 36 a kg to Rs. 46 a kg and this is the reason given for idlis becoming costlier. Pulses also go into vadas. Cooking oil is bought in bulk and prices have remained steady but most "darshinis" use more than 5 kg of oil a day.

The manager of a darshini in Ulsoor said, "We have increased prices only marginally if you compare with larger restaurants. Our regular customers will keep coming. We also don't charge extra for `parcels' as larger restaurants do.''

Besides office-goers, harried housewives who need to take time off also get takeaways from "darshinis" on Sundays. Others who frequent them are students and street vendors.