Food vendors try to clean up their act

street smart

Something that is integral to almost all Indians when it comes to satisfying the palate is– street food.

Leave aside food lovers who are ready to gorge anywhere and anytime, almost everyone has at least one street food haunt on their list. But if National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) is to be believed, the street food market is gradually changing. They fear getting evicted out from the market as street food is now available in air conditioned malls, restaurants and hotels.

Before this could happen, the association takes a move to save the livelihood of the vendors and attract customers who have given up their favourite roadside delicacies for fear of falling ill. But it appears to be a herculean task due to lack of government support.

 “We have been supporting professionalization of street food from last few years. It will help in increasing the business,” says Arbind Singh, national coordinator NASVI. “Without making things systematic we cannot promote street food. Therefore, it is important to interlink the livelihood of the vendors and health of food lovers.”
For this they have identified eight zones - Nizammuddin, Chandni Chowk, Sarojini Nagar, Karol Bagh, Paharganj, New Delhi Railway Station, Tilak Nagar and Krishna Nagar Jheel , where vendors will follow the best hygiene practices and food-handling
methods.

“These areas have been taken up in the pilot project because of their popularity and high footfall,” says Arbind.

NASVI has prepared elaborate guidelines to be followed by every vendor.
Accepting that the place of preparation is not always clean and lacks proper sanitation facilities he says, “These circumstances cause microbial contamination leading to food poisoning and other diseases, badly impacting health of foodies. This in turn affects the food vendors.  Hence, a comprehensive strategy is needed to tackle the issue of safe food.”

Therefore, the association recently held a training session for more than 600 street vendors to apprise them about the importance of hygiene. Quite happy with the workshop, Ranjit Kumar, who runs a shanty shop selling chhole bhature near Sarai Kale Khan Bus station says, “I have learnt a lot of new things. Earlier we used to leave everything open. Now, I have asked my boys to ensure everything is covered.”

Apparently, all this preparation by NASVI will fall flat if street vendors are not registered. Ironically, the process of registration has not yet begun. “Registration of the vendors is the first step which has not yet been started by the government. It is because of the lack of willingness on the administrative front,” says Rohit Abhigyan , program manager, NASVI.

Suniti Kumar Gupta, designated officer, street food, Department of Food Safety, Delhi Government, says, “Spots have been identified and since the project is still in its initial stages we are yet to commence with the registration. Probably, it will start after Diwali. We are yet to hold a session with vendors where we will provide them with basic items to maintain hygienic condition in their stalls.”

But how far is it possible to maintain hygiene in the absence of basic amenities? Issues like sanitation and basic amenities need to be addressed simultaneously to make this project a hit.  

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