Hyderabad: Hyderabadis sure do love their haleem. There is a bustling underground market for the dish in Hyderabad, in spite of the lockdown during which the sale and delivery of cooked food is prohibited.
Indeed, the meaty dish is quite easy to buy. There are multiple sellers who take orders on the phone. Some of them require the customers to pick up their haleem; many others will deliver it home for a little extra. A single portion of haleem from a reputable seller can cost around Rs 300, and a family pack over Rs 1,000.
A family from Banjara Hills, who has been selling haleem since May 15, said they have been receiving massive response from the people. They received over 30 orders the day they opened for business. Khalida (name changed), who runs the operation, said they deliver as far as Secunderabad.
When asked about the legality of her operation, she said, “We are taking all the necessary precautions. At all stages of our operation cooking, packing and delivery we are maintaining cleanliness. We haven’t faced any trouble from anyone.”
Khalida’s family has an Instagram account through which they reach out to customers. However, this is an exception. Most haleem-making outfits are depending on word of mouth to find customers. You have to know a customer to even know of a seller’s existence.
One woman from Tolichowki who has been selling the dish out of her home for many days said she did not entertain cash payments. On a call with this reporter, who was posing as a customer, she said, “I take cash payments only from people I know personally. Others have to pay in advance via other modes. I have a limited quantity to sell everyday so you have to book in advance.” She claimed even senior GHMC officials were her customers.
Almost all the sellers were in denial about the rules governing the sale of cooked food. For instance, a prominent five-star hotel in Somajiguda has been selling haleem at least since the first week of May. They have been advertising the same on their Twitter account. A representative of the hotel, on calling the number mentioned in the Twitter post, said the hotel was doing nothing illegal. “We have the pass for ‘essential services’. We can deliver food. Don’t worry about that,” he said.
Police officials have refuted this claim. A. Ravi Kumar, station house office of the Moghalpura police, who had recently taken action against people selling food, including haleem, in his jurisdiction, said, “It is illegal to sell cooked food. Action will be taken against offenders.”
Mohammad Abdul Majeed, president of the Haleem Makers Association and owner of Pista House, admitted that this was a huge problem for the city’s health. “I have indeed been hearing a lot about these people who are selling haleem to the public. It is atrocious. Can we let our love for a dish jeopardise our health and safety,” he asked.
Majeed said that many restaurants were selling food and it was impossible for them to guarantee the safety of the employees and customers. “There are a lot of factors here. For instance, animals whose meat is used in making haleem are transported into the city at places like Jiyaguda, where we know there are many Covid-19 cases. From there the animals go to the slaughter houses and the meat then reaches the kitchens. A lot of people figure in this chain, and it is impossible to check all of them. It is simply too risky,” he said.
Majeed said he had himself found a person selling haleem on a cart near his home in Attapur, at just Rs 50 a plate. “God knows what is in that haleem if it costs just Rs 50,” he said.