News18»India
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Trains May Have Started but for Mumbai's Dabbawalas, Business Has Come to a Standstill

The Dabbawallas or tiffin service providers of Mumbai are known for the impeccable business model and work ethic. But the coronavirus pandemic has hit them hard. | Image credit: Reuters

The Dabbawallas or tiffin service providers of Mumbai are known for the impeccable business model and work ethic. But the coronavirus pandemic has hit them hard. | Image credit: Reuters

Before the pandemic, the famed tiffin delivery services provided by men in crisp white dhoti, kurta, and Gandhi caps would ferry 2 lakh tiffin boxes across the town every day but now there are very few dabbas to deliver.

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Simantini Dey

Mumbai: While the Dabbawalas of Mumbai are happy that they now have access to local trains and have restarted their tiffin delivery services after a break of almost 6 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tough times are far from over for them.

Before the pandemic, the famed tiffin delivery services provided by men in crisp white dhoti, kurta, and Gandhi caps would ferry 2 lakh tiffin boxes across the town every day but now there are very few dabbas to deliver.

Ullas S Muke of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin box suppliers charity trust told News18 that, "Now only 400 dabawalas or so have started working, so they at least have tiffins to deliver, but after everyone returns from the village, where they had gone during the lockdown phase, there will surely not be enough work for everyone if people don't start ordering more dabbas soon."

The dabbawalas incurred heavy losses with six months of no income during the pandemic, and many of them have returned to their native villages. Some dabbawalas hail from the Maval area of Pune, while few are from places like Junnar, Ambegaon, Rajgurunagar, Haveli, and Mulashi. Muke said, "they have begun returning one by one, and there are more people today than there was yesterday. Hopefully, the tiffins will grow in number as well."

Muke said that these are times that they have to power through as they have in the past as well, but they are taking necessary precautions like wearing masks, and using sanitizers, as they are mostly catering to frontline workers.

Muke of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin box suppliers charity trust said that " Most of the people ordering dabbas now are frontline workers and government employees who are back in their offices, and we consider it our great privilege that we can deliver food to them, especially since doctors, nurses and so many others are doing such valuable services for our country."

"However, we are worried about our business. For the past six months, we didn't have any contact with our customers because we generally don't get their phone numbers. But, since we were allowed to access trains we visited them to let them know that they can avail our services from now on. Most of them couldn't resume the tiffin service, even when they wanted to. Some housing societies have rules that don't allow delivery people, many offices are closed too, as people are working from home, so there are a lot of reasons why we are not getting enough dabbas to deliver. But, with each passing day the number of our dabbas are growing slowly, and I will focus on that for now," he added.

It is this hope and dedication that has kept the dabbawalas going for years, irrespective of floods or the 26/11 attacks the dabbawalas have not stopped their services, since the establishment of the delivery service in 1839.


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