Coronavirus outbreak: Dabbawalas may be back on April 1, but final call later

Updated: Mar 20, 2020, 07:41 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Dabbawalas halt services till March 31 to support government's fight against the spread of Coronavirus and ensure safety

Demand for the tiffins supplied by dabbawalas has gone down over the past couple of days. Pics/ Atul Kamble
Demand for the tiffins supplied by dabbawalas has gone down over the past couple of days. Pics/ Atul Kamble

For years, the dabbawalas of Mumbai have been ensuring that people across the city, be it school children, college students or corporate professionals, get to have healthy and nutritious meals. Hence, they feel it's imperative for them to help the state government in its fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. As such, dabbawalas will stop their services from tomorrow till March 31.

While the Mumbai Dabbawala Association believes that the situation would be better by April 1 and they will be able to resume services, a decision will be taken only after assessing the situation. The step is also to ensure good health and safety of the dabbawalas, as till now they were delivering tiffins by taking precautionary measures.

Subhash Talekar, president of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, "We took the decision based on the state government's appeal to citizens to stay indoors as much as possible. It is our responsibility to also ensure that our dabbawalas do not face health issues because while working, they cannot avoid travelling in trains. We appeal to our customers to pay full fees to the dabbawalas when they return in April as the services have been discontinued due to an emergency situation. People should have empathy."

According to the Association, the service was already getting affected as many orders had been cancelled, especially after schools and colleges declared holiday and offices asked their employees to work from home.

"On a regular day, there would be around 35 tiffins with one dabbawala for collection and deliveries. But in the past few days, the number has come down to around 10-12 tiffins. With government becoming more stringent regarding work from home, the numbers are expected to go down further," said Talekar, adding that on a regular day, 5,000 dabbawalas collect and deliver about 2 lakh tiffins across the city.

"Currently, we are wearing masks on duty to ensure safety. Other than this, basic hygiene has always been our priority, as we collect and deliver food. But we cannot avoid travel by train if we are working. We are glad that it has been put on hold for some time now," said dabbawala Kailas Shinde, adding that the decision has been welcomed by all the workers.

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