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Street food in Delhi Bookmark and Share  
  Author Name : Ranbir Singh Posted on : July-25-2009 Total Hits: 4543
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Delhi has an almost five hundred years old great culinary traditions of street food. Earlier there used to be Khomchas, then redhis and thelas and now street corners. The Khomc, ewallas (street vendor) used to come to one’s doorstep to sell all kinds of snacks, chaats, ice-creams, sweets and so on. Although you name any country in the world, you will find street foods, New York to Singapore to Bangkok to Lahore to London yet the Delhi’s street food is said to have taste of its own. It is said, that, it was the famous street food that fascinated the great urdu poet Zauq, who spoke about Delhi, ‘Kaun jaaye Zauq ye Dilli ki galiyan chchod kar!’


There is a famous saying about Delhites, that when people in Mumbai and Bangluru are either partying or drinking, Delhites are eating. On any function or marriage in Delhi, after customary Hello with the hosts, people straight away walk for eating. The Delhites are so fond of eating that they all know what they are eating is not hygienically good for them yet they would eat it and if you ask them about hygiene, they will simply say that they do not see on the other side, how this is being prepared. These are the reasons that food in Delhi is very popular and some of the shops are in this business for generations. The Jalebis at Dariba Kalan corner, rabri faluda at Gianis, Fathepuri, lassi at Naya Bans, chaat near Bank of India in Chandini Chowk, Samosas at Panchkuain Road , Bhaturas in Paharganj,  chaat at UPSC etc. It is not that all are unhygienic, they take all care about the quality and some of them would even go to the pains of grinding their own spices rather trusting shop-bought masalas(mixtures of various spices). Most of the shops have their own secret recipes. People say about Delhites, that you feed them well and you have got a friend for life; on a full stomach he will give you even half of his kingdom. What the Delhites do not like they amend it like the famous India-Chinese, which is a Delhi product. It had very little population of its own, majority of the people are those who have migrated either from Pakistan at the time of partition of the country or are from other states that are here for jobs etc.


Street food is not only the delicacy for Delhites but is also a necessity for them, as it is very cheap as compared to the food available in the restaurants and even to some extent at Dhabbas as well. Many poor people depend on the street food only. Like a rickshaw puller shall prefer to take a samosa or bhatura channa prepared by a wayside food vendor then from a organized shop, as it is very cheap. According to them they are earning just Rs. 100.00 a day, out of which they have to give the rent for rickshaw, how they can afford costly food. Many commuters earn monthly salaries of Rs. 5000.00 to Rs. 10,000.00 and depend on the reasonably priced meals which cost on an average of only Rs. 15.00. According to them, they are in Delhi not only to earn there living, but also to save some money and send it home. Said Upinder Kumar an electrician from Bihar. Restaurants will charge Rs. 100.00 per meal and if they start eating there, it will be more than what they earn.


 Hawkers and street food vendors are part and parcel of urban life in India. Mostly illegal, their presence is a significant factor on the growing congestion along our cities roads-even if they do make shopping more convenient for some of us. Tackling the problem is a complicated - the issue is highly politicized. There is no official data available on the hawkers and vendors operating in Delhi, but reliably, it is estimated to be between 3 to 4 lacs, making it one of the most informal sectors. A study conducted by Manushi, an NGO, in 2001 puts the payments made by hawkers and street vendors in Delhi by way of Bribes and extortion to police, municipal officials and local musclemen at Rs. 600 crores annually. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) 2.5 billion people eat street food every day.


Recently a survey was held, where, it was found, that there was a poor knowledge of food and water borne diseases to the vendors. Even more remarkably, the study found that on the hygienic survey, fast food restaurants did not fare much better. Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparations, and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness. Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In developed countries these are intricate standards for food preparation, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical item. MCD (Municipal Corporation Delhi) gives licenses to the hawkers, but since 1982 they have not been issuing licenses, according to the Director Health Services, MCD. However, in the consonance of the Supreme Court directions they are working lto develop food streets, where hygienic food shall be available.


This project is being handled by the Ministry of Food Processing, and according to the Joint Secretary of the Ministry, who is handling this project, it will be launched sometime in October or November this year. This pilot project shall be enforcing BIS norms on the street food and shall be launched in eight cities including Delhi. Targeting 6000 vendors in each of the cities, to begin with, the project aims to have vendors follow certain minimum standards in food preparations which will ensure basic hygiene. This would be from washing there hands to washing used cutlery properly, and to ensure that only clean water is used for cooking and even a standard size of serving is maintained, all these norms will ensure the hygiene factor. Only after these standards are met, the vendors will get accreditation. Since training these vendors most of who are illiterates, is a mammoth task. NGO’s will be roped in for the task. This will help the vendor file their accreditation with ease. An initial sum of Rs. 4 lacs has been earmarked for this pilot project, if the plan takes of successfully, it would be replicated in 50 cities across the country. The proposed budget for the entire scheme is Rs. 10.00 crores. Customers may have to pay Rs. 1 or Rs. 2 more, but will get hygienic food. Union Urban Ministry shall ear mark place, Health Ministry would undertake the training programme for vendors and would carry out random tests at the outlets.


The other agencies involved would be the MCD which would be the nodal agency in identifying and accrediting the vendors. And the cops of Delhi Traffic would ensure that the vendors adhere to the practices laid down by the Health Ministry. This new scheme – Street Food Campaign – aims to transform the unorganized street food vendors into more organized segments under the food street scheme. This initiative has been taken along to upgrade the street cuisine. In Delhi the Chandini Chowk area shall be developed as a food street by organizing the street vendors on the lines of food streets in some of the international cities.


Food Safety is a growing concern globally. With the innovations in processing technologies, packaging techniques agricultural practices and change in food habits, industry and the enforcement are facing newer challenges every day. In Delhi there are multiple agencies which are looking into the aspect of the hygiene of the food being sold. PFA act is there, which has objectives of inspecting the food establishments, sampling and testing and investigating the complaints. According to the Director, PFA, Delhi Administration they have free testing labs, and control room, where any body can file a complaint on telephone and get the food or any other eating item tested. Globally the trend in food law development and administration is focusing on food safety and not just the inspection and sampling. In our country for carrying out such strictness political will is required as stated earlier also. All these changes are being done only after the Supreme Court order on street food


These changes have not been effected as yet; even then the people have started opposing it. Some have termed these orders as like those of Nazir Shah Etc., and some have been saying that they do not have enough money to spend even one rupee more on there food or snacks. There is also one school of thought who says, as and where such street food vendors have been removed or regulated in Asia or Africa    there number has gone up and not lessened. In our country the number of jhuggis is the living example. The government has to develop some mechanism that the number of these vendors should not increase, and for that they have to develop political will and think of the food safety of the countrymen.                                                                                                               

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