Kolkata, the City of Joy, lives a larger than life episode during the festive season. Durga Puja is a source of income generation for many people. Setting temporary food street stalls is also a way of earning during Durga puja. BE looked into the economy and operation of these temporary food stalls from different angles.
Sandip Chakraborty, Treasurer, on behalf of TridharaSammilani, a reputed Durga Puja organising committee based in south Kolkata, West Bengal said, “The first step is to take the permission from Kolkata Municipal Corporation for these stalls on the basis of the total area. Then on the basis of the Corporation’s permission Fire Brigade gives their permission for these stalls. After that we make all the arrangements including electric connection to set up these stalls. Finally Kolkata Police gives a temporary licence against receipts after inspecting the stalls. The stall owners / entities give a negotiated donation to the puja committee depending on various criteria. The committee pursues the entire process step by step. We also ensure the safety and security of these stalls.”
The members of BallygungeSarbajanin Durgotsav Samity, Deshapriya Park, said that they also give business opportunities to the local people by allowing them to set up food stalls in lieu of small donations.
Sumanta Roy, General Secretary, Jodhpur Park SaradiyaUtsav Committee, said that very few food stalls participate in their puja due to space problem. Roy said, “Those who participate in our puja do not usually have cooking arrangements in their stall. Stalls of KFC, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut, participate in our puja. They use certain electric gadgets, if necessary. For that they take prior permission for electric arrangements. We have to take permission of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Fire Brigade on the basis of square foot/square metre measurement allotted to the stalls altogether.”
The service boy at the Domino’s stall at Deshapriya Park Durga puja said that they cleaned their stall every two hours to maintain the quality quotient.
Rabindranath Halder, a puchka or panipuri seller, who came from far to a Kolkata puja pandal, said his business was disturbed by the rules and regulations of police to control the crowd.
A temporary Biryani stall owner at a south Kolkata puja pandal echoed the same as the above phuchkawala regarding rules and regulations of Kolkata police. He and his workers do some other jobs to earn their living during the rest of the year and set up this stall every year during puja for business. He said that his business gave him around Rs. 30000 every year.
Sabita Roy, a local at Deshapriya Park, who set up a temporary food stall during the Puja, was satisfied with her business. She said that she earned around Rs. 20,000 - 30,000 every year by setting up a food stall during the Puja.
The sizzling smell from the street food stalls mingles with the rhythm of Dhak in Kolkata during the five days of Durga puja. Crores of rupees circulate in the market in this unorganised sector of street food stalls in Kolkata during this time of the year. Government can take more effective measures to systematically organise this business segment for the benefit of the small business owners. The quality issues are also needed to be checked more stringently and meticulously keeping in my mind different incidents of unhealthy food selling.
Atin Ghosh, the Mayor in Council, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, spoke to BE about the quality control of these stalls. He said that there are no separate rules and regulations for temporary food stalls during this festival. But they fall under the quality parameters of street foods.
He also said, “These food stalls cannot use any artificial colours, they are supposed to use natural colours for food preparations. Moreover, we are holding quality control drive for all street foods during puja, so that all these food corners maintain quality control parameters by norms.”