Kolkata street food vendors face govt heat

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's dream of turning Kolkata into London may take its toll on the street food — synonymous with the culture and tradition of the metropolis.

To implement the beautification project and also reduce the pollution level in the city, the state government has decided to stop lighting any kind of oven on the pavements — an order, when implemented, may sound the death knell for an estimated 1.6 lakh food vendors here.

As of now, government officials, including minister in-charge for urban development Firhad Hakim, are out on the the streets, asking vendors to stop heating and cooking food on pavements.

Hakim, who has taken up the issue with a missionary zeal, along with officials of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), raided three areas last week — Brabourne Road, Zoo area (Alipore) and Esplanade in central Kolkata — and stopped vendors from cooking on the footpath.

Already, quite a few vendors have shut shop. "I am looking for another job as my employer has closed his stall,'' Montu, a young boy who worked at a tea stall near Sealdah station, told The Indian Express

"We have told them to either cook at some other place and then sell them on the footpath. But under no circumstances are we going to allow them to start a fire on the footpath. Who will be responsible if there is a big fire?'' asked Hakim.

Hakim said his department will soon issue a notification banning cooking on pavement. "We are not against street vendors. We also know the needs of people. But we cannot jeopardise the lives of lakhs of people by allowing fire on pavements,'' the minister said.

The move will not only snatch away the livelihood of street food vendors and their employees but also deprive lakhs of people from cheap and sumptuous meal.

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