Mumbai dabbawala
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Mumbai’s Dabbawalas demand access to suburban local trains

Dabbawalas in Mumbai have threatened a protest if they are not permited travel on local trains. Mumbai’s dabbawalas or lunch-box carriers, who are currently running in a restricted manner in light of the COVID-19 outbreak had earlier urged the Maharashtra government to permit them to travel in local trains, which would enable them to resume their business with full capacity. At present, only people employed in essential services are allowed to travel in suburban trains.

“Dabbawalas are also part of essential services are they deliver food to Mumbaikars. And since most officers are now functioning with reduced capacity, people have been asking us to deliver their meals,” Subhash Talekar, president of Mumbai Dabbawala Association had said.

Currently, dabbawalas who can reach south Mumbai area on their cycles are able to deliver food to offices, he said, adding that meals are being delivered in keeping with all COVID-19 safety norms.

“We have been demanding financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per dabbawala from the state government, similar to what the construction workers had received,” Talekar said, adding that the proposal was discussed in the state cabinet and was still on paper.

There are about 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas who deliver two lakh tiffins every day from suburban areas to the heart of the city.

“Never before in the 130-year-old history of the tiffin services, has there been a six-month break. We ensure that office-goers get their meals on time and take the empty lunch boxes back to their homes,” he said.

In the last six months, social organisations and volunteers have supported the association financially, because of which dabbawalas, who have been out of work, were given money and essentials during the lockdown period, he added.

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