How hard is it to sell Pakodas? The unemployed find out it's tough

Putting up a food cart is apparently not as easy as PM Narendra Modi or Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seem to believe

How hard is it to sell Pakodas? The unemployed find out it's tough
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Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

No, Salim Mohammad Shaikh cannot sell even pakodas to survive; or Vada Pav for that matter. Putting up a food cart is apparently not as easy as the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister believes. No, not even in Mumbai.

Life for Shaikh has changed in the last two years. Before the pandemic induced lockdown, he worked with a catering company that folded up because of the lockdown. “Koi kaam nahi hai aaj do saal se. Catering band ho gaya. Aur Seth muluk chala gaya. (There is no work for the past two years. The catering business shut down. My employer went back to his native village). Bhukhe marne ki naubat aa gai hai (We are now on the verge of starvation),” said Salim.

In Thane, where he lives with his wife and four children, he has to pay a monthly rent of Rs. 3,500 for the chawl in Mumbra. Hailing from Mysore, Salim’s maternal uncle brought him to Mumbai when he was five-year-old after he lost both his parents.

“I lost my parents when I was very young so my life was completely dependent on my Mamu (uncle). He was a hawker in the Haji Ali, Tardeo areas and I helped him,” informs Salim.

"When my employer left Mumbai after the lockdown was first relaxed, I managed to survive the lockdown by working in community kitchens. Whatever savings I had went into paying the school fees of my children," he recalls.


He has tried all possible odd jobs. He also put up food carts. "But the corporation officials took hafta (monthly bribe) and yet would confiscate my hand cart whenever they liked. I could not pay Rs. 1,200 demanded by them once and so even that closed down."

To get cooking cylinders, he twice borrowed money from one of his friends. But with mounting debt, he has had to mortgage his wife’s jewellery and now takes up any work that comes his way.

"The situation is so tough that neither we can live nor can we die," he exclaims.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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