'New York Times' narrative on action against food carts is too sweeping in nature
The only concern is that the food sold should not be unhygienic, Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel has stated
On December 13, the New York Times published an article with the title, 'India’s Latest Religious and Cultural Flashpoint: Eggs'.
The article talks about the reaction to the ban on sale of non-vegetarian food, including eggs, by carts in the street in some Gujarat cities, including Ahmedabad.
The headline itself is very misleading. Instances of some cities of Gujarat have been cited to create a narrative portraying this as a Pan-India phenomenon.
We counter some of the main points the article makes.
Citing complaints from Hindus as well as health concerns, local officials in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and at least four other cities in mid-November banned the sale and display of meat, fish and eggs on the street.
The action taken at the level of some city administrations does not seem to have the backing of the state government.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has said that the state government has no problem with people consuming non-vegetarian food.
A report by NDTV, "No issue with non-veg": Gujarat Chief Minister amid demand to ban carts, quotes him very clearly on this.
“Some people eat vegetarian food, some people eat non-vegetarian food, the BJP government does not have any problem with it. There have been demands to remove particular 'larries' (carts) from the road.
"Our only concern is that, the food sold from food carts should not be unhygienic,” Mr Patel said, addressing a BJP programme at Bandhani village in Anand district.
The Chief Minister said local civic bodies take decisions on removing food carts if they hamper road traffic, the report added.
“Local municipal corporations or municipalities take decisions to remove food carts. They can do so if they are obstructing traffic on city roads,” he said, according to NDTV.
Read the full report by NDTV
What’s more, even the president of Gujarat’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unit CR Paatil has come out against the move by some city councils. The BJP is in power in the state.
According to a report by The Indian Express, “Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil Saturday said he has instructed Mayors not to take coercive actions against those selling non-vegetarian food on roadside carts in the name of hurting religious feelings”.
“Everyone in this country has the liberty to decide what to eat. It is not appropriate to remove a person selling non-vegetarian food on a cart if people are buying from him. There is no such provision in the law either. People are free to sell anything that is not prohibited. So, there is no question of removing carts (from roads),” the report further quoted Paatil as saying.
Read the full report in The Indian Express
Though the local government now says coercive action won’t be taken against egg sellers, municipal officials have yet to rescind their ban formally. Vendors said they had been given assurances that they could come back.
India has a robust system of checks and balances, including the option of legal remedy.
And, more often than not, district and municipal administrations do respond to feedback and criticism from the people they are meant to serve.
As the New York Times article itself notes, “In recent days, facing a lawsuit and protests, officials in Ahmedabad relented and allowed sales of previously forbidden food to resume for now, though the dispute is being considered by the courts”.
On the aspect of legal remedy, it is pertinent to refer to the recent hearing on the controversy by the Gujarat High Court.
A news article in The Indian Express with the heading, “Gujarat HC pulls up civic body: How can you decide what I eat?”, gives details of what transpired at the hearing on December 10.
“Hearing a plea by 25 street vendors that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had seized their carts following objections from councillors to the sale of non-vegetarian items, the Gujarat High Court Thursday came down heavily on the AMC and instructed it to consider the cases “as expeditiously as possible” if approached by the petitioners within 24 hours for release of their goods,” The Indian Express article said.
The High Court, therefore, acted to remedy the situation on the ground where needed.
Read the complete report by The Indian Express
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a Hindu nationalist base, the national government has taken steps in recent years to promote the religion and to sideline Muslims and other groups.
It is wrong to say the national government is trying to side-line Muslims and other groups (ostensibly referring to other minority communities).
One clear indicator is the importance the government attaches to education through the award of scholarships.
Official data for scholarships awarded during 2014-2019 (the first term of the Modi government) is an eye-opener.
The Print published an article in October 2019, with the headline, “More Muslims got govt scholarships under Modi govt than during Congress-led UPA-2”.
According to this article:
“As many as 20 lakh more minority students received education scholarships under the Narendra Modi government’s first term than during the tenure of the second Congress-led UPA administration.
While 3.14 crore minority students secured government scholarships between 2014 and 2019, the number stood at 2.94 crore for the second Manmohan Singh dispensation, which was in office from 2009-2014. This translates to a rise of 7 per cent in beneficiaries under the Modi government”.
Read the full article in The Print