Let us travel in trains to earn our bread, Mumbai's Dabbawalas urge govt

Mumbai: The Mumbai Dabbawalas have appealed the state government to include them in the essential service category so they too can travel in local trains.

Subhash Talekar, president of the Mumbai Dabbawala's Association, told the Free Press Journal that the local train is the lifeline for them. "From last six months, we dabbawalas have no source of income. Our livelihood has largely been affected. Since now offices have been started, we are also slowly resuming our services, however, due to no permission to travel on the train, we are finding it difficult to commute."

There are about 5,000 members providing dabba services across Mumbai. Talekar said that as most of their members stay in suburbs and in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region like Kalyan, Badlapur (central suburbs) and Virar Nallasopra (western suburbs) they cannot travel. "Right now with just 50 dabbawalas, we have started our services only in South Mumbai. The members carry dabba on their cycles mainly from Worli up to Colaba. If we are allowed to travel on trains the service can resume fully."

Meanwhile, the association has also appealed to the government to give them some compensation for the loss of business/income in this Covid time. Talekar said, "Government should give Rs 3,000-5,000 each as compensation as we do not have any source of livelihood."

Another dabbawala, Rohidas Kamble, said, "I have three children and I am into dabba service from past several years. In this lockdown, we faced a lot of hardship due to no work. Finally, I starting running an auto-rickshaw; other members are facing extreme difficulties as 90 per cent of dabbawalas are uneducated and can't do any other job. Until trains don't start for us, giving dabba services across Mumbai is not possible, eventually affecting our livelihood."

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