Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Streetside dhabas lose to Commonwealth Games

In a move that will hit the livelihood of lakhs of people and completely change the city's street-food culture, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has started removing all illegal dhabas as part of an anti-encroachment drive before the Commonwealth Games. There are an estimated 20,000 dhabas in the city, of which 70-80% — around 14,000 to 16,000 — are deemed illegal.

N K Yadav, MCD health officer, said a special drive against roadside eateries had been launched. "Deputy commissioners of all 12 city zones have been asked to remove encroachments on public land. Illegal dhabas are part of the drive. Removal of these dhabas has nothing to do with the HC order."

In 2008, Delhi high court had asked the civic agency to remove all eateries operating on encroached land within 30 days from October 16 of that year. In response, MCD had said that it would come up with a policy for such eateries.

Under the new policy, the civic agency said it would start issuing licences to dhaba owners with legal establishments. In addition, kiosks and stall owners could also get licences issued by MCD. Since most of the existing dhabas function from public land, MCD says removing these illegal eateries is part of its anti-encroachment drive.

The MCD had also claimed in 2008 that it would carry out a survey to determine the number of illegal dhabas in the city. This was never conducted.

MCD's press and information director, Deep Mathur confirmed the move. "The illegal dhabas are liable to be removed without serving any notice to them as they are considered encroachments. MCD can only issue licences to eating houses which have a covered roof. We have been told to remove all encroachments before the Commonwealth Games."

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