Street foods in the city like vada pav, chaat, dabeli, misal, pav bhaji, etc are light on the pocket, but brimming with history. Now, to understand the role, traditions and aspirations of authorised and unauthorised street food vendors in the city, and how they are preserving and spreading their culture through food, anthropology department of University of Pune (UoP) would soon embark upon a unique project.
‘Street Food Vendors in Pune City – An Anthropological Approach’ would be executed in four phases in the next two years. “With the demand for ready-to-eat food increasing in the city, so is the number of street food vendors. Our study mostly focuses on knowing their cultural background, patterns of migration and how certain communities operate a particular food business,” professor Dr Anjali Kurane, principal investigator of the project and head of anthropology department, said.
The method of research would be purposive sampling, wherein various suburban regions of the city would be studied and vendors would be interviewed. The sample size surveyed for the project will comprise 400 vendors and the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities of University Grants Commission (UGC) has sanctioned Rs 4.75 lakh for the project. Also studied would be the approach of administrators and authorities towards these vendors.
“We will also study the attitude of the government officials and police authorities towards the street food vendors,” Kurane said. PMC has declared 45 main roads and 153 chowks in the city as no-hawkers zones. “That’s why we consistently carried our anti encroachment drives to control the number of these vendors,” said DR Langhe, chief inspector of PMC’s anti-encroachment department.
He added that since 1989, PMC has completely stopped issuing licences to street food vendors. “I remember that in the 1980s, the civic body itself had egged people on to start small food stalls, especially near hospital or government offices to cater to the needs of the public. But now the situation has totally reversed, and we have no option but to restrict their numbers,”
According to a survey carried out about six months ago by the anti-encroachment department there are around 20 thousand authorised, and unauthorised street food vendors in thecity. While explaining seasonal trends, Langhe said, “Around Ganeshotsav, for instance, the number of temporary food vendors in the city goes up to thirty-five thousand. Unlike in the past, nowadays citizens too prefer to stop their vehicles at the stalls. Political pressure has increased so much that it is becoming difficult to carry out anti-encroachment drives.”