07 Sep 2007
The Supreme Court of India ruled this summer against long lasting food traditions with a decision to ban street food. The legislation has been perceived as an abuse of power and a quick fix for the city of Delhi’s deeper sanitary problems.
Hawkers have been serving up tasty delicacies and grubby bites in the bustling market area of Chandni Chow for as long as locals can remember. Writing for Indian newspaper Tehelka, Pushpesh Pant, professor of International Studies at Jawaharl Nehru University, explains that the legacy of eating chaat, otherwise known as street food, dates back to the 16th century and is an irreplaceable part of the city’s heritage.
Pant worries that the new legislation has been passed in response to an era of globalization in which only international benchmarks are acceptable, but he further mentions that ‘no one has ever spared the thought of providing vendors clean water, drainage or garbage bens’.
There are other ways to renovate the city and implement health standards without stripping many locals of their livelihood and others of enjoyment. Hong Kong and Singapore have managed to better the sanitation of their outdoor food vendors without getting rid of them.
Countries wanting to adapt to international standards or accept new laws do not have to make blanket legislation. Each situation can be evaluated with the aim of preserving particular food cultures. From educational programs that teach vendors to wash their hands regularly to better urban planning for improved sanitary spaces, much can be done to create a cleaner but just as tasty street food experience.
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