Coronavirus Outbreak: Dabbawalas who fed Mumbai now struggle to feed their families

Updated: 14 April, 2020 13:29 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Dabbawala Association pleads for help, as extended lockdown grounds a city lifeline

Dabbawalas are unsure if they will get their April salary. File pic
Dabbawalas are unsure if they will get their April salary. File pic

Mumbai's dabbawalas have always ensured that the city never goes hungry, but now hunger is the battle they are fighting in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pleading with the state government to help them out in the crisis, the dabbawalas said that they will not have any money left in a couple of days and survival would be a challenge.

With the lockdown being extended till April 30, the Mumbai Dabbawala Association has sought the government's help. They are of the opinion that as the government has been working out different policies for the welfare of labourers from the unorganised sector, it should look into their problems as well.

Dabbawalas had to stop work on March 19 due to the lockdown. File pic
Dabbawalas had to stop work on March 19 due to the lockdown. File pic

The dabbawalas of Mumbai have always been considered one of the lifelines of the city with lakhs of working professionals depending on them for their daily meals.

They are now worried whether they will be able to feed their families in the days to come. While none of them have got their full salaries for March, with no work in April, the upcoming salary also remains doubtful.

Rohidas Sawant, dabbawala
Rohidas Sawant, dabbawala

Even as the government is making food-grains available at a low rate against ration cards, the dabbawalas are not able to avail this service because most of them do not have ration cards here.

Subhash Talekar, president of Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, "All dabbawalas hail from a village near Pune. If anybody has a ration card it has been procured on their village address and none of them have it here. Without the card they cannot buy food-grains at a lower rate made available by the government. This is why we are requesting the government to allow sale of food-grains at a lower rate to needy people without ration cards."

According to the association, the extension in lockdown has led to these concerns because till now the dabbawalas were managing with whatever food and money they had.
Moreover, even the association provided the workers with food-grains as much as possible but it has its own limitations as well. A total of 5,000 dabbawalas work for the association and live in the city.

Speaking to mid-day, 35-year-old dabbawala, Rohidas Sawant, who lives on JVLR and delivers food in the Andheri area, is currently feeding his family of five with whatever resources he has.

"I definitely cannot sustain this till April end. We did not anticipate the extension in the lockdown and now we fear that it might be extended further. I have not received my full March salary because we stopped work by March 19. And now with no work in April, I don't think we will get this month's salary. How do we survive? Since the lockdown was announced suddenly, we could not even travel back to our native place where the situation would have been better with available resources."

5,000
Total no. of dabbawalas working across the city

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First Published: 14 April, 2020 07:05 IST

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