Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Street side dhabas to be shut before Games

In a move that will hit the livelihood of lakhs of people and completely change the city’s street-food culture, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has started removing all illegal dhabas as part of an antiencroachment drive before the Commonwealth Games. There are an estimated 20,000 dhabas in the city, of which 70-80% — around 14,000 to 16,000 — are deemed illegal.

N K Yadav, MCD health officer, said a special drive against roadside eateries had been launched. ‘‘Deputy Commissioners of all 12 city zones have been asked to remove encroachments on public land. Illegal dhabas are part of the drive. Removal of these dhabas has nothing to do with the HC order.’’

In 2008, Delhi high court had asked the civic agency to remove all eateries operating on encroached land within 30 days from October 16 of that year. In response, MCD had said that it would come up with a policy for such eateries.

Under the new policy, the civic agency said it would start issuing licences to dhaba owners with legal establishments. In addition, kiosks and stall owners could also get licences issued by MCD. Since most of the existing dhabas function from public land, MCD says removing these illegal eateries is part of its anti-encroachment drive.

The MCD had also claimed in 2008 that it would carry out a survey to determine the number of illegal dhabas in the city. This was never conducted.

MCD’s press and information director Deep Mathur confirmed the move. ‘‘The illegal dhabas are liable to be removed without serving any notice on them as they are considered encroachments. MCD can only issue licences to eating houses which have a covered roof. We have been told to remove all encroachments before the Commonwealth Games.’’

Dhabas in no hurry to quit If Shut Lakhs To Lose Jobs, Many Their Favourite Eating Joints

The MCD has started removing all illegal dhabas across the capital as part of their anti-encroachment drive before the Commonwealth Games. These dhabas provide livelihood to lakhs of workers and offer a quick bite to all classes of people. These eateries earn anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000 a month and employ up to 12 people.

Dr Amit Prakash from LNJP Hospital was out enjoying a meal at a dhaba near the hospital on Tuesday afternoon. He said: ‘‘We all live in the hostel and depend on the dhabas for our daily meals.’’

Areas like ITO, which have a concentration of offices, have numerous illegal eateries which are very crowded at most times. While MCD officials visit the area every few weeks, dhaba-owners usually get away by paying a bribe or closing down the place for a few days.

Recently, however, MCD officials asked the dhaba owners to stop functioning altogether from the area citing government orders. Said Baljeet, who owns a parantha stall at ITO: ‘‘I do not have a license as MCD refused to issue one to me. Many of us are functioning without licenses. A few days ago, an MCD official asked me to shut my stall saying the government had asked them to remove all encroachments.’’

Other dhaba owners too have been asked to go. But like Baljeet, they say they will carry on functioning as they have to earn a livelihood. Said Trilok Singh, who owns a tea stall at ITO, ‘‘We were asked to move as our stall is located near a drain and MCD said that they needed to carry out improvement work in the area.’’

Officials in the south zone also confirmed that the drive was on in their area. Most of the dhaba owners who have a license have set up their own seating space — not allowed under the rules — and also have a small set-up for making chapatis beyond the space allocated to them. Some of them have taken a tehbazari licensee, which is given for selling items that do not require cooking, but are operating an eating joint.

Under the rules, legal roadside eateries should have running water and proper ventilation, the kitchen should be kept clean and all vessels should be covered to avoid contamination. Further, the food items should be kept far from waste matter and a high standard of personal hygiene maintained by workers. This hardly seems to be the case in reality.