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Mumbai’s dabbawalas as well as the employees of foreign consulates and high commissions can now commence their journey in the special suburban services run by the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR).

This comes after the Ministry of Railways approved the request made by the state government. Currently, 937 special suburban services are being operated for the essential staff identified as per the Maharashtra government.

Sumit Thakur, chief public relations officer of WR, said that, based on the unlock guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government on September 30, they have allowed dabbawalas to commute in local trains. "The staff of foreign consulates and high commissions have also been permitted to travel in local trains, as per the directives received from the Ministry of Railways," he said.

Dabbawalas, the famous lunch box carriers in Mumbai, last month said there was never a six-month break in the ‘130 -year-old history of the tiffin services’, and demanded access to local trains to resume their services in full capacity.

Currently, in view of the COVID-19 restrictions, only those dabbawalas who could reach south Mumbai on their cycles were able to deliver food to office goers. They have now expressed happiness on being allowed to board local trains with effect from Tuesday. Over 5,000 dabbawalas run the tiffin delivery business in the metropolis.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, they used to deliver over two lakh tiffins to office goers on normal working days. They use suburban trains to ensure lunch boxes are delivered at the destination on time.

Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer of CR, said QR-coded ID cards issued by the state government will be mandatory for them to travel in local trains. However, dabbawalas have requested that they be allowed to travel using their identity cards. "If the Maharashtra government agrees to their demand, we will permit them to travel on their ID cards," he said.

Subhash Talekar, spokesperson of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, expressed happiness on being allowed to travel in local trains. "Finally, after more than six months, we can resume our service," Talekar said, adding dabbawalas will now contact their customers and request them to resume the tiffin service.

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Free Press Journal