Mumbai's dabbawalas want houses under govt scheme

Mumbai: Mumbai's dabbawalas, who ferry lunchboxes for customers from home to office and back for a livelihood come rain or shine, want to return to homes of their own after their day's work is done. They are demanding houses in Mumbai under government scheme. The president of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, Subhash Talekar, stated that in 2004, the then chief minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, had conducted a meeting on this issue.

The association was asked to submit a report about a suitable plot of land where houses could be built for them. "It has been 15 years since we have submitted the report but nothing has been done so far. Now, we hope the Uddhav Thackeray led-coalition government will fulfil our long-pending demand," Talekar said.

The association has about 5,000 members, who travel by local trains, walk or cycle to deliver home-cooked boxes of food to about two lakh customers every day. Talekar said, "Uddhav Thackeray had promised to fulfil our demands if the Sena government would come to power. Since the Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have now formed a coalition government, these parties should now look into the dabbawalas' demand for housing."

Several dabbawalas live in cramped accommodation, in chawls or rented houses. Many of them are forced to reside in slums as the only source of income for them is what they earn by delivering lunchboxes. Like millworkers, Mumbai's dabbawalas too should be provided affordable houses by the government, Talekar says.

In August, the dabbawalas' association had demanded a separate coach or reservation for a couple of hours during rush hours in the existing and upcoming metro transit system.

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