Grab that steaming vada pav and garam chai while you can.
With the civic body planning to swoop down on street food following a Supreme Court order issued earlier this month, the little stalls that serve up these piping hot delights may not be around for long.
“Ward officers have been asked to take action against all eateries cooking on the roads,” confirmed Additional Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev.
The bhel puri and sandwiches will still be available, but everything from dabelis to dosas are set to disappear.
In 2003, the SC had banned all cooking on streets in response to a petition filed in 1985. With no action following the order, non-governmental organisation CitiSpace filed a contempt petition.
“Food cooked on streets is unhygienic. Such activities also pose a danger to pedestrians and take up too much space on the pavements and roads,” said Nayana Kathpalia, co-convenor of the NGO.
Now, the Supreme Court has once again ordered the stoves off the streets and told the police to file a compliance report in 12 weeks.
“Starting June 1, roadside eateries will be raided. Any cooking material found will be seized and not returned,” said Rajeev.
The civic body has clarified, however, that only unlicensed stalls will be targeted. “Licensed fast-food joints can continue to cook food. As per the SC order, the others can prepare their food elsewhere and then sell it on the street,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner B.R. Marathe.
This will probably clear up the streets and force Mumbaiites into the relatively cleaner restaurants, but it will render thousands jobless — and wipe out a source of cheap food that sustains a large chunk of the population.
“I can’t serve cold idlis and dosas,” said a dejected G. Annaya (37), whose piping hot wares have drawn crowds at Matunga Road for 17 years.
Added Mahadev Kaale, who has served up steaming tea at Vile Parle for 30 years: “I think this decision is ridiculous. Do they expect me to serve lukewarm chai? I will probably end up as a waiter in some restaurant.”
Anticipating trouble from the hawkers, the civic body has enlisted the help of the police. But they still do not know how many unlicensed stalls are cooking food on Mumbai’s streets. “We are conducting a survey that will be completed in a day or two,” said Marathe.
The BMC is also planning an awareness campaign to convince citizens they are eating “unsafe food that contributes to the filth in the city”.