‘Not just a business, but a means of survival

Dimapur street food vendors have been left with little to no option but set up their stalls at odd locations causing huge financial losses. (Morung Photo)

Dimapur street food vendors have been left with little to no option but set up their stalls at odd locations causing huge financial losses. (Morung Photo)

Food truck owners share grievances over  recent Dimapur Police directives 

Mongsentong Longkumer 
Dimapur | April 23

"On the night of Friday, April 14, at Clock Tower junction Dimapur, the owner of Spicy Treat, a mobile food truck vendor, recalled that as they were going about their usual activity of catering to customers, a group of police officials suddenly arrived at the scene ordering them to close down their stalls for ‘temporary traffic convenience.’

 “Accordingly we cooperated with the police but when we went again on Sunday night, we were driven away by them,” she added. The mobile food stalls usually serve mostly young people enjoying a night out.

They later learnt that the Dimapur police had actually issued a directive on April 14 stating that all street vendors/hawkers illegally occupying footpath and roadside parking areas will be removed. 

This, they reasoned was served in the interest and safety of the general public and for smooth flow of vehicular traffic. 
The order had the desired effect as the food stalls, which used to regularly occupy lanes surrounding the Clock Tower junction areas, are now nowhere to be seen.  

At the same time however, owners of the food stalls were left with little to no option of setting up their businesses in a primary location causing huge financial losses. 

 “We incurred a huge loss from that night onwards,” said the owner of Spicy Treat food truck, who had wished not be named. 

She mentioned that her business had been running for more than 6 years and was a source of securing livelihood not just for herself, but also to the eight other workers she employs. 

“All of them are Naga youths and I have to give them salary regularly so the government instead of support us have curbed our livelihood,” she added. 

The owner claimed that almost 80% of her business has been affected by the abrupt change and was distressed as to what their fate will be in the coming months. “I have a son, now how will I pay for his school fees and my rent?” she questioned. 

Traffic convenience, but at what cost?
Kirito, owner of Foodie food truck, informed that he began his business 5 years ago. “I first started through a small food cart selling street food and later invested in a mobile vehicle for 5 lakh,” he said.  

He employs three other Naga youths under him, who the owner maintained, have their respective families to look after. 
“Footfall has been drastically low compared to Clock Tower so we are all suffering right now,” he remarked. At present, a significant number of them had temporarily set up shop at a road side in Duncan Basti with the help and permission of the Duncan Women Union. Here, they were allowed to open till 11PM and had paid Rs 500 for registration. 

Meanwhile, owner of another food truck, Food Express shared that at a time when the government and society were advocating for entrepreneurship, it was baffling to learn that the administration had taken such an extreme and sudden step. 

Besides the business factor, they further noted that inflow of foreign and domestic tourists from outside had also brought huge benefits for Dimapur. This was all the more prominent during the Hornbill Festival and the festive season when Nagaland witnesses an increase in tourism. On top of food vloggers and YouTubers who would constantly visit their stalls thereby promoting the tourism aspect of Dimapur. 

“Street food is still a new concept for Nagaland, but it seems as though the government has cut off our limbs even before we are able to walk,” one of the owners remarked.  “We create an air of ambience around that location (Clock Tower) which unfortunately has been stopped.”

Neither cheap nor easy endeavour
The owners revealed that to run a business such as their takes huge amounts of capital and effort to invest. “It is not cheap to set up a food truck, we invest around 5-8 lakh just for the van and other expenses also include buying vending machines and freezers as well,” they said.

 In addition to the daily task of waking up early in the morning to prepare and buy the food items needed for the day.
“We have taken permission from the Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC) and we pay monthly sanitary tax as well although we try our best not to litter on the streets,” they shared. 

 In regard to location aspect, Clock Tower had been the most prime area where people from across all sectors of Dimapur could congregate as such; they reasoned that no other locations would be more appropriate or favourable for them. 

Willing to make adjustments 
When inquired if they were willing to make adjustments in terms of time and area, it was made known that the time factor could be negotiated. “We want to open our stalls at Clock Tower but with fixed timetables or other arrangements if the administration or police are willing,” they commented. 

“In our opinion we are not doing anything illegal, street food culture exists all across the world so the government should understand our situation,” they also added.  

It may be mentioned here that while the order was in effect for street food vendors, other individuals such as cobblers and small time hawkers were still seen setting up their stalls along the footpaths at Nyamo Lotha Road and other nearby locations when this reported went to inspect.