BENGALURU: Over the last 18 years, Avara Bele Mela has turned into an iconic food fest. People from across the city, including stars and political leaders, congregate here for ten days to have dosas, vadas and even loose hyacinth beans. But residents of VV Puram say that they have had enough of this “madness”. Residents say that during this mele, the Market Road is littered with heaps of disposable cutlery and its traffic becomes unmanageable. But organiser of the fest Sri Vasavi Condiments counters that only eco-friendly cutlery is used and that the road (also known as Food Street) is crowded even otherwise with other eateries. OV Jayakumar has been living in this neighbourhood for over 100 years now.
“We moved here in the 1920s, and the littering on the roads has never been this bad,” he says. “This avare bele is a nuisance… we have complained to BBMP officials, even our corporator Vani V Rao has taken our complaint to the civic agency. But nothing has changed”. Ram Seshu, another resident and member of the Resident Welfare Association, says, “There are plastic cups and styrofoam plates everywhere. So much of garbage all around… What are the officials doing? I am not against this mela, it is part of our culture. But it should be organised responsibly.”
‘Conduct mele responsibly’
Corporator Vani V Rao sounds frustrated with all the attempts she has made to make the fest “cleaner”. “Let them organise the fest but I have been asking everyone including corporation officials, time and again, to make it plastic free and not to use the roads to prepare food or to serve food… I raised the same issue at the council meetings, from the year I was elected, two years ago”. Jayakumar adds, “Usually, this street sees thousands of diners with many eateries that serve a varied vegetarian fare.
They cook inside their buildings and eat outside. But during this mela, people cook outside and eat outside,” he says, adding that this fest generates 30,000 pieces of disposable cutlery every day. Swathi KS, whose father owns Sri Vasavi Condiments, says, “We use only paper plates and areca-leaf plates, even Adamya Chetna trust supplies steel plates and glasses for this fest. We run this fest completely plastic-free… the heaps residents have seen must be from roadside eateries.” She adds that this street has always been crowded, with its many vegetarian eateries and snack stalls.
Big help for farmers
This fest was started to help farmers get a decent price for their produce, say the organisers. “They used to plant the beans between ragi fields, because they did not get a good price,” says Swathi. “After we started organising this fest, and the farmers started getting a good price, entire farms have switched to growing this bean… The market buys it from them at `15 a kg and we buy for `25 a kg, this is a huge difference”.
Vani says she respects the help this fest is giving farmers but that it should still be conducted responsibly. “Why can’t they rent out a ground and then put their banners, bunting and shops there? Residents keep complaining to me. There is a school in this neighbourhood and they said that even an ambulance cannot get through the road, in case of an emergency… I told them that let’s do a sit-in as a protest on the road, but nobody came forward,” she says. Jayakumar says that the first few years of the mele were not so bad. “Then it became popular and it got worse over the years”. Sarfaraz Khan, Joint commissioner (Health/SWM) was not available to comment.