10/02/2009 10:49 PM | By Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter
Dubai: The Municipal ban on cooking in the fruit vendors' accommodation in Al Aweer may create health problems for thousands of workers who now depend on fly-by-night kitchens in Sharjah and Dubai, workers say.
Mini-vans stuffed with plastic bags of cooked rice and curries wait in front of the accommodation in the heat, while freelance caterers keep cardboard boxes on the pavement, selling food in the open.
The owner of a cafeteria about two kilometres away from the accommodation said the freelance caterers cooked in their homes, an illegal activity which the Municipal ban has inadvertently spawned.
The accommodation houses about 10,000 workers from the massive fruit and vegetable market nearby. The cooking ban was imposed after a fire gutted a huge warehouse which stored onions and potatoes.
Workers claim Municipality staff came at the end of September and took away thousands of gas cylinders and stoves which workers had paid for with their own money. "For a couple of days after that the scene here was like a refugee camp whenever the food arrived in the vans," said a worker.
The workers said they cannot afford to eat out every day because of their meagre wages, which are as low as Dh400.
The workers here are mainly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
"We are spending about Dh40 per day on food," said one worker, compared to about Dh10 a day when they cooked at home.
The Municipality says it will build a huge kitchen facility for the workers where they can cook their meals. It also plans to set up a huge dining hall.
"It is a huge safety concern," a municipal official was quoted as saying about cooking in the accommodation.
The workers questioned the decision and said they had earlier also paid for safe gas pipe connections, which the Municipality had demanded. The pipelines have now been cut and the kitchens are empty except for a couple of cut cucumbers lying on the counter.
Despite the cooking ban there are about four temporary canteens being run within the accommodation, selling tea and snacks. "If cooking is banned, how are these cafeterias running?" asked the workers.
"Everyone is making a profit," said the workers claiming that the few restaurants and cafeterias have increased prices. "A biryani used to cost Dh7. It is now Dh10," one said.
OLIVER CLARKE/Gulf News
Workers from the fruit and vegetable market buy ready-cooked food from the back of a car following a Dubai Municipality ban on cooking in their accommodation.