Corporation canteens worry pushcart eateries

Ever since Amma Unavagam was opened to provide hygienic food at a low cost, kaiyendhi bhavans (roadside pushcart eateries) have taken a beating.

These pushcart eateries, found in every street corner, were once thronged by people. In the last one month, their numbers have dwindled considerably. M. Kala, who runs a Kaiyendhi Bhavan at Ambattur Industrial Estate, said, “After Amma Unavagam was opened, our business is dull. We are affected a lot. Those who have been in this profession for ages, do not know how they are going to survive,”

“Many have closed down the business. I have been running this food stall for 30 years. The situation has become so bad that I am not able to pay my staff their salaries,” said G. Rangarajan.

He, however adds, “I appreciate the initiative to open subsidised tiffin centres at affordable cost for the poor.”

K. Balu, who runs a stall at Velachery for more than 20 years, is seriously thinking of changing his business.

“I have never faced such a difficcult situation before. With earnings from my food stall, I was able to provide college education for my son B. Guhan and daughter B. Lakshmi Balu, who pursue mechanical engineering and electronics electrical communication engineering respectively. Earlier, I had around 60 to 70 customers come to my stall for lunch. Now, it is hardly five to six people. I do not know how I am going to compensate for the loss,” he said with a stoic smile.

P. Ezhumlai of Medavakkam, who runs a food stall at Kellys for the last 25 years, also reported a drought of customers. He pointed out that as the mercury rose, business dipped. “During April, May and June, people prefer fruits, fruits juices rather than having a hot and spicy lunch,” he said. But this summer, the drop in sales is even more alarming.

S. Suriya, who operates a pushcart eatery in a North Chennai locality, is the lone voice of self-assurance.

“As far as my business (food stall) is concerned, it is good. People prefer eating non-vegetarian rather than vegetarian food items in Kaiyendhi Bhavan. Moreover, at Amma Unavagam, there seems to be little variety.”