If the BMC decides to implement the Supreme Court order on cooking on the streets in earnest, expect never to eat your favourite roadside pani puri again.
The city’s lakhs of workers will also have to start looking for a different 10-rupee meal, because the vada pav will have bitten dust.
Unofficial civic estimates state that 40% of the city’s 2.5 lakh hawkers sell foodstuffs, cooked or otherwise, according to the National Hawkers Federation.
While the city’s reputation for its street cuisine may take a hit, it’s the other aspect that leaves many worried.
A large part of the city depends on street vendors for meals. “Be it snacks or even full meals, most of the unorganised sector eats food from street vendors. Migrants, especially single ones, also bank on street food,” said Mecanzy Dabre, convenor of the Federation.
As of now, the BMC has taken action, but infrequently and selectively. While it has targeted certain food stalls, “juice stalls” in posh areas continue to function with impunity.
Similarly, new vada-pav stalls under the aegis of Shiv Sena’s Shiv Vada Pav programme peacefully occupy street space, sometimes entire pavements. These stalls are much bigger than the size specified by the SC and they also cook on the streets.
Sandeep Yeole from the Pheriwalla Vikas Mahasangh, said, “The BMC and cops will not miss an opportunity to penalise hawkers, but turn the other way when it comes to such political opportunism.”
A vendor in Santacruz(West), who does not wish to be named, works at a stall selling snack items such as vadas and samosas.
“This ban is completely impractical. It has just resulted in more bribes for officials. We did try cooking our items at a rented location close to the stall, but the costs are very high,” he said.