Following the announcement of a “massive campaign” against non-vegetarian street food in Gujarat, the BJP leadership clarified that the campaign should not be misconstrued as targeting non-vegetarian food. According to the authorities, action was implemented only against those encroaching on footpaths and constricting traffic.
The Town Planning Committee of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) had voted, on Monday, to ban all street carts that sell non-vegetarian food facing public roads. This is the latest Gujarati city to express concern about non-vegetarian items being sold on the streets. As per ANI, stalls selling such items were banned along public roads and within a 100-metre radius of schools, colleges, and religious places. Similar directives for the removal of non-vegetarian food carts from main roads were issued by political leaders in Rajkot, Vadodara and Bhavnagar last week.
Contrary to the recent statement, AMC Revenue Committee chairman Jainik Vakil sent a letter on November 13 to the Municipal Commissioner and Standing Committee, requesting emergency action to curb the illegal proliferation of non-vegetarian carts in public places, citing ‘Gujarat’s identity and Karnavati city’s cultural tradition’. Furthermore, the AMC’s planning committee chairman Devang Dani informed the Indian Express that the decision was made because there had been public complaints of “bad smell”, especially from morning walkers and residents “visiting religious places”.
The ban on non-vegetarian food stalls on Ahmedabad’s public roads has put street vendors in a bind. Due to their relocation from schools, colleges, and religious sites, street food stall owners now fear losing their livelihood. In addition, pushcart owners questioned the logic behind the crackdown on them when hotels and restaurants in the city continue to serve non-vegetarian food.
The department’s estate teams removed five illegal carts and 12 carts from Anandnagar Road, Corporate Road, Jodhpur, ISCKON Circle, and near the YMCA Club in the South West Zone. The AMC seized 30 food carts from Ashram Road on Tuesday, according to the Gujarat Lari Galla Patharna Sangh, an association of street vendors in the state, as per several Times of India reports.
At Law Garden, egg vending carts continue to operate as they have contracted the space directly from the AMC. Food cart owners were asked to relocate to arterial roads from main roads in areas such as Vastrapur, Prahladnagar, Satellite, Vasna, Paldi, and Vadaj. There are around 1,10,000 street vendors and food cart owners in Ahmedabad, out of which 42,000 have been issued business cards by the AMC. According to the ToI, owners were not given notice. Seizing their carts without notice is against the Street Vendors Act. It is estimated that up to 40,000 to 50,000 food cart owners kept their businesses closed on Tuesday due to concerns that their carts would be seized by the department.
The city council’s ordinance did not only affect non-vegetarian food stalls. Despite the fact that the prices of meat are usually up in the winter, they have now been reduced due to the ban on non-vegetarian stalls. Marketers report a decrease in meat procurement from street-side joints. According to meat traders in Ahmedabad, procurements have been affected and as a result of which, prices have declined. According to estimates by traders, chicken prices fell from Rs 200 to Rs 160 per kilogram, whereas mutton prices fell from Rs 640 to Rs 620 per kilogram.
The BJP announcement, following the Revenue Committee chairman’s letter to the Municipal Commissioner, was not well received by people. A majority of the city’s citizens have criticised the decision, with social media flooded with negative comments. Many reactions labelled the decision as anti-poor and against the BJP’s favourite ‘Atmanirbhar’ party line.
Opposition parties quickly condemned the apparent misstep, while Laari-Galla Owners Association members demonstrated outside the municipal corporation office. In response to the AMC’s decision to close non-vegetarian eateries, Gujarat BJP president C.R. Patil said, “They (AMC) must not have been removed over the issue of veg or non-veg. There must be some other reason. They must be operating from footpaths and must have been asked to find another place.”
AMC officials were also sceptical as many vendors had been enrolled under the PM Street Vendors’ Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Yojana to help them restart their businesses after COVID-19. According to them, there were many conflicting issues with the entire drive. Many vendors enrolled under the Atmanirbhar Yojana were evicted; they were also eligible under the Street Vendors Act. According to a ToI report, AMC seniors stated that the directive to remove food carts from near schools and colleges did not stand as most food joints open in the evening.
In protest to the AMC’s decision to remove non-vegetarian food carts from public roads, AIMIM council members, on Tuesday, presented eggs to Mayor Kirit Parmar. However, they were stopped by security guards and the eggs were taken from them. In response to AMC’s move, Congress councillors showered flowers on the mayor. “Removing food carts from public roads is a violation of Article 19(1) G of Constitution of India which provides the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens. It also violates a citizen’s right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India under Article 19(1)(e),” said Shamshad Pathan, president of AIMIM Ahmedabad, as reported by the Hindustan Times.
Congress councillors Iqbal Shaikh and Shehzad Pathan said that removing non-vegetarian or vegetarian food carts is anti-poor. BJP president C.R. Patil, on the other hand, later stressed that the party was not targeting egg or non-vegetarian food vendors. Congress members staged a protest outside the Mayor’s office with replicas of laaris on their heads.