A debate on India's street food

The issue of hawkers cooking food on the roadside has become unexpectedly prominent, not to mention confusing. Not long ago, the media carried reports that the Supreme Court had agreed with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (mcd's) contention that hawkers cooking food on the roadside need to be banned to beautify the city in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and also because such food constituted a health hazard. This provoked strong reactions across different sections of society.

Subsequently, the court clarified that it had imposed no ban, but merely directed the mcd to provide infrastructure for the maintenance of hygiene. While this reassurance is certainly heartening, upon closer inspection it actually gives rise to more questions than answers. The larger issue concerning the status (and contingent rights) of hawkers has caused much confusion.

A predominant reason for this lies in the attitude of the executive, specifically municipal bodies. For decades, hawkers have constituted a convenient target for