Food on the wheels is likely to disappear

Street food vendors in India

Despite the pandemic, food bloggers have engaged their audiences’ by showcasing street food drinks including Khooni Juice and Banta Soda. But due to a rise in delta-variant cases and the third wave, a lot of street food vendors are uncertain about having an income and raising their families. In this current scenario, can street food vendors expect a future of their own?

“The sales have been pretty low. Regular customers are coming, but most of the general public doesn’t step foot in the market,” said Anmol Mohit, the owner of Aanmol Lassi, Sowcarpet, Chennai.

While the pandemic has shrunk the inflow of cash for street vendors, food bloggers have posted dozens of videos on YouTube, displaying the possibility of in-car dining for fuss-free food. In Kerala, for instance, the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) has introduced an in-car dining initiative, wherein, people can place their bookings from the restaurants. Through this, they plan to increase the stakes for tourism within the state. But, what about street vendors? Can they register too? If not, who knows what their situation in the state might head to?

Apart from in-car dining, food joints have also started the facility of parcels. One such case has been highlighted by Mr Radhakrishna Adiga, the owner of Brahmins’ Coffee Bar in Basavanagudi, Bangalore said,

“Thanks to the parcel arrangement that the government has instigated, very limited people come to our coffee bar. The sales are lesser than before.”

It is a popular joint that dishes out south-Indian food. Taking into consideration their lack of income, a lot of small-scale food businesses have also been shifted up on Swiggy. But due to a lack of data, it isn’t clear whether they are able to receive orders or a regular income.

In one of the stories rolled out by the New Indian Express on the sufferings related to street food vendors, Shankaran Y, the owner of a small tiffin shop at Madipakkam stated that restaurants and reputed hotels can afford to manage their businesses through Swiggy and Zomato. But what about the vendors? There are a lot of them who aren’t technologically literate. Neither are they resourceful.

Let alone technology, due to the pandemic, people have stopped eating street food due to lack of hygiene. The question being, aren’t the vendors exposed to double the risk? Whether it is in-car dining or dine-in, the risk is heavier for the vendors, since they have to be exposed to several hours of labor under scorching heat and sweat. In Delhi, for instance, there are several workers who have run out of work as tourism is nil. As per a study performed by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), about 90% of street vendors have lost their jobs, owing to the situation.

Moreover, the center had announced a ‘special credit facility’ of Rs 5, 000 crore for the vendors, as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan in 2020. And, under the SVANidhi scheme, a vendor can use up to Rs 10, 000 as his initial working capital. But it is available for those who are considered as ‘legal.’ And do you know how many are? According to the Period Force Labour Survey (PLFS), the capital has the presence of 3, 00, 000 vendors. Yet, the corporation has listed only 1, 25, 000 legal vendors. It’s a scam. Half of them wouldn’t even have the capital, to begin with, and will remain under the shackles of poverty.

With false claims registered for street vendors and the difficulties put forth by the pandemic combined, the future of street vendors in India is worrisome and needs to be given thought to. In India, informal enterprises contribute to 46% of the total GDP. If attention is garnered, the percentage could increase and the overall economic situation of the country could be enhanced.

Aspiring Journalist. Content Writer.