Video Inputs: Sahal Qureshi
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
On 15 November, Gujarat’s Ahmedabad became the fourth city to ban the sale of non-vegetarian food stalls from its main roads.
In an order, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) said that it will remove any food stall selling non-vegetarian food items from the city, which are in close proximity to city roads, schools, and religious places. The decision was taken citing Gujarat’s ‘traditions’, ‘identity’, and illegal encroachment.
‘WE ARE FEARFUL OF THE AUTHORITIES'
Facing the brunt of a sudden decision, hawkers in Ahmedabad were left in a lurch. An anguished Rakesh Mehreriya, President of Gujarat Street Association, questions the authorities on the loss incurred by the street hawkers.
"Those (hawkers) selling eggs and non-vegetarian food are fearful as authorities return the confiscated carts after 45 days, at least. What are they going to do for 45 days? They are not doing business for the same reason," says Mehrariya.
Upset with the behaviour of the AMC, Prem Kumar, a street hawker, said that at least Rs 30,000 is spent to purchase a cart and authorities confiscate and break it. “After confiscating, if we don’t claim the cart within six months, they sell the cart,” adds Kumar.
FOURTH CITY TO BAN FOOD STALLS
The decision to ban roadside stalls in Ahmedabad came days after municipal corporations in Gujarat’s Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Vadodara cities, took similar steps. Civic bodies in Vadodara had even ordered shopkeepers and hawkers to cover non-vegetarian food saying that it could hurt the ‘religious sentiments of Hindus’.
Earning a hand-to-mouth living, most of the migrant hawkers in Ahmedabad are out of employment.
The sudden decision to ban roadside stalls comes at the heels of successive COVID lockdowns, which had already thrown the incomes of the unorganised sector out of gear.
Kumar says that after having a tough time during the lockdown, our business had just picked up.
"If we don’t earn, who else will? My father is 90-years-old, and my mother is 85-years-old. How will I manage food for them, education for my children? We already had a tough time during the lockdown."Prem Kumar, Street Hawker
Amid the anxiety, Arun Kumar, another street hawker questions the ‘arbitrary decision’ of the authorities.
“How will we manage food for our family? We don’t have our house here. Even if our business is shut, we are still paying rent. One of my carts is already confiscated. They are asking for so many documents just to release them. We all have our licences still, they are not listening to us,” asks Arun Kumar, another street hawker.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS
In contrast to the BJP-run civic bodies, Gujarat BJP state president CR Paatil reportedly said that authorities in Vadodara and Rajkot were asked ‘not to remove non-vegetarian food carts’.
“The decision to remove these food carts was the personal opinion of leaders (in municipal corporations). The state BJP has nothing to do with it. We will not implement it across the state,” says Paatil.
On 15 November, Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Bhupendrabhai Patel, said that the prohibition was not ‘a question of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food’.
"We have no issues with who eats vegetarian or non-vegetarian food but the food sold on these carts should not be harmful to health and if they obstruct traffic, the municipal corporation can remove them."Bhupendra Patel, Gujarat CM