I was watching a documentary series on street food. The series had various episodes titled after cities in Asia, such as Bangkok, New Delhi, Seoul, etc. The episode uncovering New Delhi’s street food devotees was my favorite choice, considering my Indian roots. It spoke about the backgrounds of the different street vendors serving various street dishes. I was taken on a culinary journey across different dishes such as the Nihari stew, the Seekh Kebabs, Chaat, and Chole Batura. Consequently, the show celebrated the success and continuity of the vendors’ lives, businesses, and services to Delhi’s people. Ultimately, the documentary thoughtfully represented the enthusiasm and success of Indian street food businesses. Essentially, it is important to understand that the Indian street food business is an essence of flavorsome when it comes to shaping the Indian food market.
According to cultural Historian Rana Safvi, the concept surrounding street food consists of ancient imported roots from the Tomars, the Rajputs, the British, and the Mughal empire. Hence, Safvi says that when people indulge in infamous street dishes such as the Nihari, or the Seekh Kebab, they are also tasting history in the present day. Furthermore, Safvi also states that the street food business serves all kinds of people – from the working-class category to students – to the rich folk – to any common man. Consequently, according to the Program Head of the National Association of Street Vendors, Sangeeta Singh, “many people don’t seem to have kitchens, and are totally dependent on street food for their meals; so if someone has to taste real food, authentic food, it has to be street food.”
Over the years, the street food scene in India has grown with popularity. According to a food website, the street food industry has grown with prominence because of its high demand in the food market. Another food website states that its market share is also expanding because of its emphasis on freshness and taste in food items. Consequently, the website also states that the industry’s business models have also flourished because of the business’s low investment requirement and high cost-effectiveness. Hence, street vendors have strived and are striving to prepare quality food which will entice demanding taste buds at a lower cost.
However, some people in India also avoid street food stalls in concern of hygiene standards followed by vendors. They feel fearful of sanitation, quality, and surroundings. However, the report states that street food stalls usually serve a preponderance of the population in a city. Moreover, street food vendors across India suffer from displacement on a daily basis. They can also suffer from legal sanctions and have depleted constitutional recognition. Additionally, according to Anne Dahmen, a German research scholar and coordinator for the sustainable Hyderabad Project (SHP), eviction possibilities are high for street vendors because of a lack of awareness about the standard protocols and requirements in following the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. However, Anne Dahmen also states that the perception and overall situation of street food surrounding uncertainty can be improved by the government by managing the sector better, i.e., by regulating the process to be more participatory.
This industry has grown and preserved economies in the country. According to a media report, if street food stalls fold permanently, then the high cost to be beared by a customer and effort to find food which has similar value would be difficult. Furthermore, according to Anne Dahmen, if proper training based on legalities, hygiene, and preparation is administered by different authorities through various schemes to various street vendors across India, then the street food industry can be pillars of sustenance for societies. For instance, the Hindu also reports that under a training program carried out by the SHP and Dr. Reddy’s foundation, which trained several street vendors, M. Vijay Kumar – one of the training program’s trainees saw his sales increase from Rs. 800 to Rs. 1000 a day after executing new methods.
Conclusively, though some people in India avoid street food because of hygiene purposes, it’s role in sustaining and shaping the Indian food economy remains unparalleled. Additionally, though some of the street vendors are at risk of eviction on a daily basis, they are also the lifeblood of freshness and taste in taste buds across different cities in India. Consequently, with the right schemes of training programs provided by the government to street vendors, there can be a possibility for crucial advancement in institutional awareness concerning culinary legalities, acts, and hygiene practices. Ultimately, it is essential to understand that the Indian food economy is shaped by the people who serve food on the streets of cities, and with changes in perceptions of some citizens and recognition given by the government towards these people, it can become more recognizable.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.