Kolkata street food prices escalate by 30% over last November.
By bappaditya paul
Congress MPs Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood might claim that one can get a meal at Rs 12 in Mumbai and Rs 5 in Delhi but a reality check tells that even in Kolkata ~ the city known for its low-cost street food ~ an ordinary vegetarian meal these days costs at least Rs 18. Thanks to inflation, the price of street foods in Kolkata has gone up by about 30 per cent over last year and vendors say that it would soar further after the Durga Puja in October.
At the Hindustan Buildings area in Chandni where hundreds of people lunch everyday at street food stalls, a fish meal nowadays starts at Rs 22, egg-meal at Rs 18 and a vegetarian meal of dal-rice-potato fry starts at Rs 12. Add to this three extra helping of rice (the bare minimum for an adult) at Rs 2 each, and the end cost stands at Rs 28, Rs 24 and Rs 18, respectively. Till last November a fish meal used to cost Rs 24, an egg-meal Rs 22 and a veg-meal Rs 16.
The scene is same at other parts of Kolkata that are known as street food zones. At Dalhousie, the city’s office para, a full vegetarian meal now costs Rs 20, an egg-meal Rs 25 and a fish meal Rs 30, as compared to Rs 15, Rs 20 and Rs 25 six months ago. Not so far at Mangolane on Bentinck Street, where footpath vendors sell fried rice to young executives and traders, a plate of chicken-rice costs Rs 40 and mutton-rice Rs 50, up by Rs 5 and Rs 10, respectively, since March. Vendors say that they cannot help but hike the price further. “Till a few months ago, a kg of Rohu fish used to cost Rs 150 but now it costs Rs 180. Similarly, a pair of eggs now costs Rs 8 on wholesale from Rs 6 only four months ago. Going by this, we will have to hike the price further after the Puja,” said Mr Arjun Adak, who runs a food stall in front of Hindustan Buildings.
Mr Jiban Das, who runs a stall behind the Writers’ Buildings at Dalhousie said, as a result of soaring prices, his customers have started compromising on their meals. “The ones who used to have fish meal at least thrice a week, are eating only one egg meal at best; most others have switched over to vegetarian meal altogether.” It is not that the price of meal is only on the rise; street-smart snacks too are getting dearer by the day. Two-slice of butter toast now costs Rs 9 and egg toast Rs 12 from what was Rs 8 and Rs 10 till April. Chowmin, another popular snack, now costs Rs 25 with egg and Rs 20 for the plain variety as compared to Rs 20 and Rs 15 till February.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This is an elaborate version of a report that first appeared in The Statesman on 27 July.)