In one corner, fish tikka crackled, as chicken legs on skewers hung around, while in another shop, aloo tikki sizzled on a pan. In Amar Colony on Friday evening, non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes gave each other company, as they have for many years now. From those gorging on Delhi’s ubiquitous street food to those preparing it, most seemed oblivious to South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s latest proposal regarding “prohibition on displaying of non-vegetarian food items/materials publicly by restaurant owners”.
The reasons stated by the proposal are “danger of contamination to non-vegetarian food item” and the possibility of the non-vegetarian food “hurting the sentiments of vegetarian public”.
When told about this, 35-year-old Arvind, manning the counter at Tunday Kababi, said, “Even vegetarian food can be contaminated… if this is made a rule, even vegetarian food stalls shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”
Most evenings are busy in the lane, with more than 10 establishments serving a variety of non-vegetarian fair. “We have a glass that protects the chicken skewers; it’s covered from three sides. Many people take such precautions. We can’t afford big indoors. This move will end businesses for a lot of small establishments that are famous in Delhi,” said an employee of Hunger Strike in Amar Colony. For Raju, who was preparing mutton seekh kebab at a tiny shop, it’s a question of livelihood. “I have prepared seekh kebabs all my life; if they shut such businesses, where will I go?”
At 34 Chowringhee Lane, known for its rolls, manager Neeraj laughed at the proposal, and said, “Space constraint is a reason why a lot of people prepare food on the road… it is also something Delhi is known for. How can they finish this off? So many people will lose jobs.” Kilometres away in Defence Colony is Suhani’s Shawarma Roll. Rajkumar, 35, who mans it, said, “You can’t open a restaurant for shawarma. It has to be a stall… if the rule is passed, the employees will lose their jobs — they will suffer the most.”