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Iconic Batte Gali in Lal Chowk faces uncertain future

08:02 AM Oct 08, 2023 IST | SHABIR IBN YUSUF
iconic batte gali in lal chowk faces uncertain future
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Srinagar, Oct 8: Cherished ‘Batte Gali‘ (Food Street), an iconic culinary landmark with roots dating back to the 1960s, nestled in the heart of city centre Lal Chowk, finds itself on the precipice of an uncertain future. More than 30 percent of its shopkeepers have been forced to shutter their businesses.

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The owners of these food outlets have expressed their concerns, attributing a significant slump in sales to the government’s recent decision to relocate nearby bus terminals to the outskirts of Srinagar.

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Once renowned for its pristine hygiene and affordable gastronomic offerings, the ‘Batte Gali‘ Food Street now grapples with a dim prognosis, marked by a dwindling customer base.

Nasir Ahmad, an owner of one of the establishments, voiced his sorrow over the business downturn, remarking, “The Food Street, which once boasted about 18-19 food shops, now only has around 12 that are operational. Many owners have had to close their doors. This predicament stems from the relocation of nearby mini-bus, bus, and sumo terminals.”

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Ahmad underscored that their predecessors had previously brought their concerns about the bus yards’ relocation to the attention of authorities, but unfortunately, no action was taken.

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Javid Ahmad, a former outlet owner at Food Street, now finds himself working as an employee at his neighbour’s establishment due to the business downturn.

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Sajid Ahmad, another food shop owner, fondly recalled the Food Street’s heyday when it teemed with customers. Now, they find themselves vying for the attention of a dwindling clientele, struggling to keep their businesses afloat. Should the current situation persist, they fear they may not be able to endure much longer.

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In a peculiar twist, despite paying rent to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, the shopkeepers have had to personally foot the bill for the street’s cleaning and maintenance. They lamented the absence of any assistance for repairs since the devastating floods that struck the region in 2014.

The declining foot traffic has also led to a contraction in the variety of food offerings available.

“The bans of cabs from entering the city centre and other issues have affected the footfall of customers. We have also been asking for some renovation so that the place can get a facelift. We appeal to the government to renovate the place under the smart city so that it becomes the centre of attraction. These unattended issues are reducing the customer footfall, which is affecting our livelihood. Dozens of families are earning their livelihood here, and if this place is developed, it will benefit them,” said Nisar Ahmad Khan, a food outlet owner.

In times past, Food Street featured a diverse array of dishes, encompassing both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, all at pocket-friendly prices.

A plate of vegetables with rice was affordably priced at Rs 50, while non-vegetarian delicacies began from Rs 150 and upwards, depending on the choice of mutton dishes. The diverse menu, which included Kashmiri wazwan and other local specialities, had long attracted both locals and tourists alike.

As the future of ‘Batte Gali‘ Food Street dangles in uncertainty, its proprietors and patrons harbour the hope of a resurgence that might resurrect its bygone glory as a lively hub of culinary delights in Srinagar.

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