Dasari Sai Kumari or ‘Kumari aunty’, a food stall owner who gained fame for selling Telangana dishes for lunch in Hyderabad’s Madhapur, was asked to shut shop and shift elsewhere by the city traffic police on Tuesday, January 30 citing huge crowds blocking the free flow of traffic. However, a day later, Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy asked the Director General of Police (DGP) and the Urban Development Ministry to revoke the decision.
The stall, which offers rice and a variety of dishes including chicken and mutton curry, gained popularity over the last couple of months with YouTubers, news outlets, and employees in offices near the ITC Kohenur beside Knowledge City flocking there. Kumari says she has been running the stall since 2011. However, a few weeks ago, a video of Kumari charging a customer Rs 1,000 for their order went viral, after which many YouTubers trolled her while claiming that she was charging exorbitant rates for street food and speculating that her income was very high. She later clarified that the Rs 1,000 bill was for a huge order by six customers.
Although the virality initially brought her massive attention and many new customers, on January 30, the Cyberabad Traffic Police revoked permission for her stall alleging it was causing congestion on the road. Upset with the orders, Kumari sought help from the media. “It was the media that made me popular and helped attract such huge crowds. How can you ensure justice, now that I’m at risk of losing my livelihood?” Kumari asked mediapersons. “I’ve requested everyone who came to shoot my videos to ensure traffic isn’t obstructed,” she added.
When mediapersons questioned the traffic police officers, they said that Kumari did not have permission from civic authorities to run the stall, and that due to many YouTubers and others visiting her stall after her video went viral, the stall has caused traffic congestion.
However, after the decision to ask Kumari to relocate her stall met with disapproval from several quarters, particularly on social media, CM Revanth Reddy’s office intervened and asked authorities to revoke the decision.
“CM Revanth directed the Telangana DGP and Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department to rescind their decision to shift #KumariAunty, a streetside eatery. She will stay in her place. Prajala Palana means the govt stands by entrepreneurs. Congress govt will stand by poor & visit her stall shortly,” a statement from Revanth Reddy’s office said.
Speaking to TNM, Ikram* (name changed), a tea seller four stalls away from Kumari’s eatery, alleged that her popularity was detrimental to other businesses. “She (Kumari) was keen on promoting her business which was all well. But with the police asking people to leave, over the last few days business has thinned out,” he said.
Traffic police on January 31 were seen asking YouTubers, videographers, and local reporters to leave as they feared traffic congestion.
Another vendor remarked that Kumari’s business impeded theirs as the traffic police kept intervening. “It isn’t completely their fault either. The traffic was unbearable, and with AIG Hospital and a few other medical establishments nearby, the free flow of traffic was heavily hindered.”
On her end, Kumari told local media that it was unfair to ask her alone to shut shop. “Several others have set up stalls here. They run their business 24*7. Why am I alone asked to leave?” she questioned.
Days after the video showing her charging a customer Rs 1,000 went viral, she clarified in an interview that the amount was for six customers. Responding to criticism that she was overcharging, she said that she had fixed the costs in accordance with the rising prices of commodities, and refuted speculation that she earned a monthly income of several lakhs. With a pleasant disposition, she said she didn’t mind people on social media trolling her as long as they were having fun and her business did well.