Agra, April 2 (IANS) Petha is no longer easily available at Agra's three railway stations where transit passengers hop off to purchase the city's famous sweets.
Hundreds of railway passengers passing through Agra or boarding trains from Agra Cantt or Raja ki Mandi stations cannot readily locate the petha seller these days. Railway authorities said that the firm that had the contract has not shown interest in renewing it and the process of tendering to appoint a new one is to be finalized by the Allahabad divisional office.
The matter has been dragging for more than three years.
"We have approached the higher authorities and are waiting for instructions," Bhupendra Dhillon, public relations officer at the Railway Divisional Office in Agra, told IANS.
On Monday, a traveller from Chennai slipped on the platform while running to reach the lone petha stall at the far end of platform number one. Right now there is a (near) total ban on selling pethas on platforms by vendors," said porter Asa Ram.
Agra is as famous for its petha as for the Taj Mahal. More than 400 units in the cottage and tiny sectors make petha which has its origin in the making of the Taj Mahal -- as an instant energizer during hot summer months for thousands of workers.
"When passengers from Delhi bound for the south get down to collect a kilo or two, they are terribly disappointed not to find a vendor selling petha," said Rajiv, a daily commuter to Delhi.
But in the trains leaving Agra there are gangs of hawkers who illegally sell petha, often of sub-standard quality.
An official told IANS: "We are working out some formula to resolve the tussle on a priority."
The Agra unit of the Aam Aadmi Party has now demanded immediate opening of stalls and permission to trolley owners to sell petha.
Deepak Sarin, AAP convener, told IANS: "This is a serious problem and cannot be allowed to linger on. Agra petha industry is already in the dumps for various reasons. Choking sale outlets is wrong and we will approach the higher authorities."
The petha makers want the whole system de-licensed to check corruption.
"We should get an opportunity to sell our products at competitive rates to the passengers," said Ashish, a petha seller at Noori Gate.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)