The civic body of Bengaluru has decided to evict street vendors and food sellers from all the wards of the city in view of the cholera outbreak, News18 reported on Wednesday. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s decision comes after 17 cases of the disease were reported in the past week.

The commissioner of the civic body, BH Anil Kumar, made the announcement in a tweet on Monday. “The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike will be clearing footpath vendors and food sellers in all the wards of the city in view of cholera and gastroenteritis cases being reported and to improve the cleanliness of Bengaluru,” he said.

He said all roadside eateries with “unhygienic kitchens” will be closed as they were the source of the infection. “Request citizens to stop consuming roadside food,” the commissioner added.

Meanwhile, Mayor Goutham Kumar said that the civic body would also undertake door-to-door campaigns to ensure cleanliness.

However, several activists in the city decried the move, saying it targeted poor people. Doctor Sylvia Karpagam, a public health specialist, called the decision “very unscientific and classist”, according to The News Minute. “The idea of cholera being spread by street vendors is just nonsense,” she added. “Cholera can spread via water, [and basically through] any type of faecal-oral transmission.”

The health specialist explained that instead of shutting down street food stalls, the authorities need to focus on improving the health education system and sanitation in the city. “This is because people with cholera can spread the disease if they don’t maintain standard hygiene,” she said.

Lawyer and activist Vinay K Sreenivasa also condemned the civic body and said the decision targets poor street vendors. “Do they even know the root causes of cholera?” News18 quoted him as saying. “ The BBMP cannot even provide water all over the city, especially in slums where [the] cholera outbreak happened and they want to evict street vendors instead ?It is illegal and immoral.”

Chief Health Officer of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Vijayendra, however, defended the move and said action is going to be taken only against the vendors who do not maintain basic standards of hygiene. “We have sent the samples to the lab and we are awaiting results,” he said. “[And] as a preventive measure, we have asked them [the food stalls] to close down.”

When asked about the impact the decision will have on the livelihoods of street vendors, he said: “What is more important right now? We have only targeted people who were seen to sell food which was not covered, otherwise, we are not touching them.”