Standing Committee Chairman of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), Hitendra Patel, on Thursday issued a “verbal instruction” to the executive wing to remove from “public display” all non-vegetarian food being sold on street stalls and restaurants in the city within 15 days as it is a matter of “religious sentiments”.
Patel’s instruction came a day after Rajkot city mayor asked the civic body to ensure that all non-vegetarian stalls are restricted to hawking zones, away from the main road view.
At a meeting with civic body officials on Thursday, Patel said that all street vendors selling non-vegetarian food, including fish, meat, chicken, and eggs, as well as any restaurants that have non-vegetarian food, should be made to cover the items from public display.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Patel said, “I instructed that all food stalls, especially those selling non-vegetarian food such as fish, meat and eggs, should ensure that the food is well covered for hygiene reasons… They should also be removed from main roads where they could cause traffic snarls…”
When asked if the vendors would be allowed to use a transparent cover to display the food items, Patel said, “They need to ensure that no non-vegetarian food is visible to anyone passing by… It has to do with our religious sentiments… It may have been the practice for years to sell non-vegetarian food on full display, but the time has come to correct it. The non-vegetarian food should not be seen.” The instruction also applies to shops selling raw meat and eggs.
Patel said that the decision has been conveyed to the officials of the VMC to ensure that vendors comply with the instructions within 15 days or pay heavy penalties. However, Municipal Commissioner Shalini Agarwal and officials of the administrative wards in the city said they were “unaware” of the decision. Agarwal told this newspaper that she had not received any instruction to the effect.
An official of a ward, which is famous for its non-vegetarian street food, said the instruction is “unclear”. “We have learned about this decision from some VMC officials who were called in for a meeting by the standing committee chairman. But it is not clear as there is no official circular on the operating procedure and fines. At the moment, we have only been instructed to ask vendors to remove all non-vegetarian food from display… It is almost impossible because when customers come to the stalls and eat in public, the food will ultimately be visible.”
However, leaders of Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP’s) city unit claimed that they were not consulted before taking the decision. A senior leader, said on condition of anonymity, “No one even in the standing committee, except the chairman, is aware of this decision. The mayor is out of town and we have not come across any representation from any elected corporator on behalf of the people, demanding such a move. At the moment, it seems to be an arbitrary decision, inspired by the announcement in Rajkot. It seems highly impractical but the party leaders will discuss and understand the viewpoints before deciding on it.”
On November 9, the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) launched a drive to seize handcarts and cabins selling eggs and other non-vegetarian food as part of which civic officials removed outlets in Fulchhab Chowk, Limbda Chowk and Shashtri Maidan so far.
Rajkot mayor Pradip Dav said the drive was to remove “encroachments” from main roads. “We are removing encroachments from main roads and squares… and not just joints selling non-vegetarian food… they cause nuisance, creating hurdles to vehicular traffic and also offending religious sentiments of those following Hinduism. They can do their business but at a proper place. It can’t be in residential areas on main roads…,” Dav told The Indian Express, adding, “We have also asked meat sellers in Sadar area not to display their products publicly as it offends passersby.”
He said the drive will continue till all such joints are removed from city roads. “They don’t have necessary approvals from the RMC… If some of them are paying administrative charges to the RMC, we shall stop collecting it and ask them to move to other locations,” said the mayor.
Owner of a Vadodara restaurant, famous for its non-vegetarian food, said, “With the kind of losses that businesses have faced since the outbreak of Covid-19, one would expect some kind of logic and compassion from elected representatives towards poor vendors and restaurants… Vadodara has a legacy of restaurants that are popular among vegetarians and non-vegetarians… Our vegetarian patrons have not objected to our non-vegetarian kitchen in decades… Why are political leaders getting offended on behalf of the people? Will they now ask all restaurants to turn vegetarian?”