DISPLACED: Are McDonald’s burgers, KFC fried chicken and Taco Bell replacing humble puri-bhaji, vada-pav, pani-puri, other chaat favorites, in the eyes of our rich young people?

By Rajan Narayan

With the steep increase in the price of both domestic and commercial gas cylinders, our unskilled young people may not even make pakoda and sell them for a living!

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi once boasted of selling pakoda to make a living when he was young. Modi insisted that those who did not have any skills to earn a living they could always make money selling pakoda or Indian fritters of potato, onion and other veggie fillings. It was an idea partly approved by the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and it was dramatized in Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai.
To the many unemployed Maharashtrian youth with no special skills in earning a living, Bal Thackeray came up with the brilliant idea of issuing thousands of vada-pav licenses. They could stuff the deep fried spicy vada in local bread loaves and sell them to make a decent living – depending of course on how flavorful their pakoda were and reputation acquired far and wide. He extended help to all these young people to put up wada-pav stalls all over Mumbai.
Reportedly, the idea caught fire and was proved to be a tremendous success, with several lakh of youth setting up vada-pav stalls wherever it would be viable. The vada-pav ranged from ordinary plain fare to exotic fare stuffed with green and garlic red wet or dry powder chutney of course, sometimes served up with lemon wedge and onion relish, pay a little more for the most economical snack anywhere.
Similarly, in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha created jobs by setting up Amma Canteens where people could lunch for Rs5, with breakfast idli and coffee available for as little as Rs1. Goa is probably the only state which instead of encouraging vendors to earn a living drives them away from popular hot spots like beaches and other places visited frequently by tourists and locals alike.
I recall when I was a trainee journalist and getting a salary of Rs250 per month, my dinner is to consist of chole- bhatura and Qwality ice-cream bar for dessert, which together cost me less than a rupee – the stalls being near my University hostel where Churchgate suburban railways were located down town Mumbai city.

BUT since the last three years or ever since the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, forget about young people making money selling batatavada-pav, even small eateries have closed down. During Rajiv Gandhi’s time as prime minister commercial cooking gas cylinder prices were about Rs600 per cylinder. Today during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s time a commercial cooking gas cylinder cost Rs2,000.
Even if you cheat and use a domestic gas cylinder you cannot break even. A domestic cylinder costs over Rs1,000. Since virtually 50% of the cost of selling popular cooked street snacks requires fuel to cook them. Small people on the streets and eateries have either increased their rates absurdly or shut business. Upmarket places have started charging anything from Rs5 to Rs10 to Rs20 for plastic containers and bags for takeaways, plus the cost of the menu food being retailed of course with added-on State and Central GST taxes added on.
Since I have been ordering food from outside for quite some time now I have noticed that almost every week there is an increase with some cheating going on here and there. Free delivery in the vicinity is not free delivery. It is all promotional hype. The inflation is partly because both in the vegetable market and the grocery stores the prices of atta and vegetables have increased dramatically. To the distress of Goans, even the price of fish has gone up. This may not please Narendra Modi but more Hindus in Goa are switching to beef because it is the cheapest meat available.
The rich are grow richer even when stock market prices collapse. To cater to their needs or aspirations the foreign food chains are taking advantage of the inflationary situation. A decade ago there was no Domino pizza or McDonald’s burger or Starbucks coffee or Kentucky chicken or even the latest Tacobell.

IRONICALLY, all these firangi brightly lit air-conditioned food eateries are packed with young consumers, including the Baskin Robbins outlets. Interestingly, the owner of Baskin Robbin sold of his company to become a part of the Krishna Consciousness movement.
Today in urban India there is more demand for McDonald’s, KFC, Tacobell and more, traditional Goan ros-omlet bhaji-pav is going for a toss. There seems to be a sudden increase in the number of take-away food kitchens. Facebook offers names of countless food kitchens doing all kinds of food of dubious and not so dubious value, be it sausages to fish fries to all manner of biryani.
All food is accompanied by fancy leaflets promoting the establishment retailing the usual or fancy food and many nightclubs com attached with kitchens offering genuine Mughlai tandoori kebab and other food. Recently, “The Times of India” which promotes all these new hybrid fancy eateries and restaurants at a price, has been waxing lyrical about a North Indian food restaurant at Vagator which invited actor Jackie Shroff and dozen other film stars for the inauguration.
The largest number of fancy restaurants seem to be in the Baga and Candolim belt, and in Assagao. Your choice is between Rs2,000-Rs5,000 dinner with drinks or the cheapest fish thali at Rs100. Even Ritz, a Ponjekar favourite has hiked its fish thali meal deal rate to Rs350.

THE BJP and Narendra Modi keep talking about infrastructure development. Hundreds of crore have been invested in building new highways and new airports. Since Modi came to power at least 25 new airports have come up, the latest being the Shivamogga airport in Karnataka. Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is hyper-active building expressways with six and eight lanes between Mumbai and Nagpur, and an expressway between Delhi and Mumbai.
There are superfast expressways between Mumbai and Gujarat. The Modi government has become obsessed with the railways and is planning to build bullet trains starting from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, these trains will travel at a speed of more than 180 kilometre per hour.
Bridges are coming up all over the country, see the disaster that is the Atal Sethu Bridge, and new Zuari bridge in Goa. The only jobs available in the country are for construction laborers paid on a contract basis and assured of continuous employment.
Thanks to the corona virus pandemic lockdowns the number of uneducated unemployed has increased manifold. As Rahul Gandhi of Bharat Jodo Yatra fame points out repeatedly, the BJP government never talks about employment. It is only concerned in bailing out the wealthy classes of rich and middle class.
All schemes are targeted for those already propertied and monied. There is nothing in any budget including the latest budget offering any help to the educated unemployed. If there is mass migration in the country from Bihar and UP it is because the poor in these states cannot even earn Rs100 per month. This is why the residents of poor Bihar, Jharkhand, Nagaland and Assam are migrating in such huge numbers to Goa where the migrant population in some places outnumbers native Goans.
It has been established in Facebook, videos and audios claiming that Bihari people are been ill-treated in Tamil Nadu, are false. Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Stalin has assured Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that the workers from Bihar will not be harassed. However, it is natural for locals to recent large-scale migration from another state. Over the last decade, the entire culture of Goa has changed, with not only bottom-end migrants but top-end migrants making a beeline to Goa to do all kinds of bona fide and mala fide businesses.

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