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Food trucks find themselves on the wrong side of local political bosses


For the past two years Shakti Subbarao, founder of Gypsy Kitchen, a city-based fast food truck has been selling burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches out of a parking spot in 27th Main, HSR Layout. Last week, he was asked to vacate the place by the corporator and attacked by men accompanying him.

The incident, caught on camera and widely shared on social media, has brought to light the harassment faced by food truck owners in the city. Food trucks entered the city about 18 months ago. The idea was a hit among Bengaluru’s foodies.

Thirty-eight food trucks are registered with the Bangalore Food Truck Association (BFTA). Even though all of them possess a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India licence and all requirements of the Regional Transport Office -such as vehicle insurance, permit, fitness certificate and mobile canteen certificate -and pay a 5% value added tax for all transactions, they are still illegal in the eyes of the authorities.

“We do not have a clear directive legalising food trucks,” says Varun Srikanth, president, BFTA. The association was started to support entrepreneurs in the upcoming segment and now includes established players such as Lalit Ashok, Empire and Khan Saheb.

Even though food trucks are loved by the public, mainly youngsters, the owners have to put up with harassment from local gangs, other vendors and politicians on an everyday basis. Often, they are called a nuisance, even though many of them ensure that they do not affect traffic or pedestrian movement and keep the surroundings clean.

“We supported every initiative in HSR Layout. We segregate waste and don’t use any plastic disposables,” says Gypsy Kitchen’s Subbarao. “From what I hear, there are about 600 street vendors in HSR. Out of all those, we are targeted maybe because of the assumption that we were making a lot of money or that we were affecting other people’s businesses.”

To avoid such persecution, the BFTA has long been trying to get an authorisation from the city authorities. “But there is no clarity on who to approach,” says Srikanth, “We have been running from pillar to post.”

The world over, food trucks are allowed to park anywhere that is not too close to other commercial establishments, schools or hospitals. “We are asking for a holistic permission which has flexibility. Give us permission to park on any commercial road over 60 feet and list out guidelines that we have to stick to,” Srikant suggests.

After much dillydallying, Joint Commissioner of Health, Sarfaraz Khan, is meeting the association this month. “It is a new concept and there are no guidelines,” Sarfaraz Khan says, adding: “There are many issues we need to consider, given that our commercial roads are already congested and residents have an issue with any business drawing crowds to their locality .”

It could take two months to understand the ground reality and frame guidelines, Khan said.

Source: Economic Times

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