The Atlantic

Tech Is Killing Street Food

The wealthy hubs of the United States and India are embracing informal gastronomy, but not the people who have traditionally provided it.
Source: Christine Ro

Updated at 7:38 p.m. on December 20, 2018

Rosa Leon works as a tamale vendor in San Jose, California. But she has to do so on the sly, selling only at night. She considered obtaining permits, but she was daunted by the process. Now, the urban farm-and-food nonprofit Veggielution is helping her apply for them.

In Bangalore, India, Sukumar N. T. sells gobi Manchurian, a fiery Indian-Chinese dish, from a mobile cart. He’s been on this corner, not far from the Rajajinagar IT Park, for seven years, after moving there from a small city about 100 miles west. Every day, the police ask him for 40 to 50 rupees (less than a U.S. dollar), he told me, even though he’s licensed to vend there. “It’s compulsory,” he shrugged. “I don’t want any trouble in the future.”

Bangalore and the Bay Area have a lot in common. They are the tech centers of the world’s second- and third-most-populous countries, respectively, and they both sometimes feel like they’re bursting at the seams. Some economists argue that when tech companies move to cities with rigid housing markets, the value of real wages goes down as the cost of living jumps.

[Read: Who gets to live in Silicon Valley?]

In the Bay Area, in the nation, low-income people are being displaced. And in Bangalore—where housing costs have also increased dramatically, and where more and more for tech parks and luxury property development—more than 5,000 residents of near Marathahalli, a suburb that hosts a number of IT companies, have recently been threatened with eviction.

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