Lockdown impact: Mumbai Dabbawala's now working as daily wage labourers

ST Staff
Friday, 26 June 2020

The hands which provided food for Mumbaikars are now in search of their livelihoods.

Pune: The hands which provided food for Mumbaikars are now in search of their livelihoods. The Mumbai's much-famed Dabbawala's have returned to their native places in Pune district and working as daily wage labourers in companies located in the industrial areas of the district. 

The Mumbai Dabbawala's were a team of more than 4,000 youths from Mulshi, Maval, Khed, Ambegaon and Junnar taluka of the Pune district who used to work in Mumbai for generations and provided tiffins to working professionals. However since the lockdown was imposed in March, the lifeline of Mumbai - the local trains - stopped running and the Dabbawala's also had to stop working. 

The industries in Chakan, Khed, Talegaon, Takve areas of Pune district reopened in the first week of June. Since the migrant labourers had gone back to their native place, the industries were facing a shortage of unskilled labour. The Mumbai Dabbawala's are filling up the void created by the return of migrant labourers in the industrial zones. 

The Dabbawala's who used to work in a hard-pressed white outfit and traditional white cap have left their 'uniform' in Mumbai. The hands which helped feed lakhs of professionals in Mumbai are now struggling to make ends meet.

Every morning they bring their own tiffin and reach the company gate in the MIDC area as instructed by the contractor. They are earning anything around Rs 300 to Rs 350 every day out of which Rs 50 is spent on commuting through shared pickup vehicles. The state government has helped many communities, but the Dabbawalas have remained neglected. 

Shivaji Karande, a Dabbawala originally from the Parithewadi village, said, "We don't know for many days the lockdown will continue. It is not safe to go to Mumbai for the next few months due to coronavirus infection risk. We don't want to be a burden on our family in our village, so we are taking up any work which we can find in nearby industrial areas."

Subhash Talekar, Mumbai Dabbawala Association President, said, "The state government should provide financial assistance to the family of the Dabbawala who has died due to COVID-19. The cabinet had discussed the issue of providing Rs 2000 per head assistance to Dabbawala's during the lockdown, but no decision has been taken so far."

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