BLAND TASTE: Subodh Kant Sahay inaugurates Streets India pushcart project at Argora grounds, Ranchi, in 2010
For some, the golgappas tasted better. For the others, it was the neatly compartmentalised sections of the colourful pushcarts and the overall cleanliness that drew them to taste whatever short eats they were selling.
But now, the pushcarts have vanished from the cityscape.
And everyone rues the sad demise of Streets India, a well-meaning venture planned by an IIM graduate to provide quality food at reasonable prices for people on the go and, in the process, bring some order in the uncertainties that surround hawkers’ lives.
“The last time I noticed pushcarts with Streets India written on them was beside Hariom Tower in January last year. After that I have not spotted one,” a Ranchi Women’s College student said.
Foodie Dinesh Tibrewal misses the carts, too. “I remember I had eaten golgappas from one of the carts near the tourism department office on Main Road. But I have not seen a pushcart for a long time now,” said the resident of Harmu Road.
So what went wrong? Bad planning, says the bank that shelled out loans to some hawkers, whose lives the project was meant to change.
Conceptualised by Tanish Shyamya, an IIM-Bangalore alumnus, and launched by then Union food processing minister Subodh Kant Sahay on June 27, 2010, at Argora grounds, the idea meant well.
As many as 50 hawkers were to use pushcarts to sell quality street food at reasonable prices to people at large. Shyamya helped them get loans of Rs 15,000 each from banks.
The hawkers, she had estimated, would earn around Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 per day. They were supposed to pay her part of the earnings for her help, using the rest to pay off their debt to the banks.
If it worked for the first lot, other hawkers would hopefully join the scheme, it was felt.
The hawkers were financed by Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank. For the first six months or so the carts did brisk business at Morabadi, Main Road and Circular Road. Now, they have vanished.
Officials at Punjab National Bank, Argora branch, that provided loans to as many as 24 vendors on the recommendation of Shyamya, are disappointed.
“We provided individual loans of Rs 15,000 each under a micro-finance scheme to as many as 24 vendors and extended all support to them to run the business. But it flopped,” said a bank official.
The bank claimed it tried to contact Shyamya on several occasions but failed. In any case she wasn’t a signatory to loan agreements.
“We thought of recovering the loans, but hawkers who availed of the facility are very poor. So, we are hesitating to take any harsh measures right now,” the official added.
Chief manager Goutam Kumar Chhatopadhyay said since the project failed, the bank would ultimately have to act under the provisions of Public Debt Recovery Act, but refused to elaborate.
Shyamya, who claimed she was planning to start a similar venture in Uttar Pradesh, admitted the scheme failed, but blamed lack of support from the local authorities as the primary reason.
“Ranchi Municipal Corporation was supposed to provide a vending zone to conduct proper business. But it never materialised. Also, the carts were often at the receiving end of anti-encroachment drives in the state capital,” she added.
The hawkers and their carts are gone. All they needed was a bit of a push.
Are you listening, Mr Subodh Kant Sahay?