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We are not thelas: Food trucks do brisk business but face licence wrangles

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According to civic authorities, these food trucks are illegal as they do not have a hawker’s licence to cook and sell food on the roadside

THE trend of food trucks, which have onboard kitchens and serve various kind of cuisine, is picking up pace in Pune, especially in the bustling suburban areas of the city. While there are almost 50 food trucks in the city, all of them face a major issue. According to civic authorities, these food trucks are illegal as they do not have a hawker’s licence to cook and sell food on the roadside. The owners, however, say that the problem is the absence of a legal framework for ‘restaurants on wheels’, which are different from roadside food stalls.

Originally an American concept, it has spread to cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru; the capital and Ahmedabad now have dedicated parks for food trucks. Food trucks in Pune serve cuisine ranging from Asian to Continental, Mediterranean to American, and dishes ranging from sandwiches and salads to kebabs and tacos. These trucks are now a common sight in areas like Vimannagar, Aundh, Baner and Koregaon Park.

Mohit Nakra, a lawyer-turned-food-truck-owner, and one of the first persons to venture into the business in Pune, said, “We must understand that these food trucks are different from roadside thelas. Most of the food truck owners are trained in culinary skills and there is no doubt that the food we serve is hygienic. But unfortunately, the authorities have not been able to grasp this concept and treat these food trucks like a thela”. “Most of the food truck owners have permits, such as those from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the Food and Drug Administration and the Shop Act. But as the food trucks are parked on the side of the road, we have to get a hawker’s licence, which none of us have. The new licenses have not been issued and the process has a lot of red tape,” he added.

Sandhya Garage, deputy commissioner (encroachment), Pune Municipal Corporation, said, “None of these food trucks has the necessary permit for cooking and selling food on the roadside… we have taken action and will continue to do so. So, if they are operating on the side of the road, they are doing so illegally.”

Vikram Dabholkar, another food truck owner, said, “The solution… is to form a dedicated park for food trucks. Our group has already surveyed private land in Vimannagar area… but we have to work on the economics of it… in a food truck park, people will be able to choose from an array of options and we will be able to resolve the legal issue as well.”

Source:  Indian Express

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