Dabbawalas, consulates' staff allowed to travel in local trains in Mumbai

Mumbais dabbawalas and staff offoreign consulates and high commissions have been allowed totravel in local trains which are currently being run only foressential services staff, officials said on Wednesday.

Dabbawalas, the famous lunch-box carriers in Mumbai,last month said there was never a six-month break in the “130-year-old history of the tiffin services”, and demanded accessto local trains to resume their services in full capacity.

Currently, in view of the COVID-19 restrictions, onlythe dabbawalas who could reach the south Mumbai area on theircycles were able to deliver food to office-goers.

They have now expressed happiness on being allowed toboard local trains with effect from Tuesday.

Sumit Thakur, chief public relations officer of theWestern Railway, said based on the unlock guidelines issued bythe Maharashtra government on September 30, they have allowedthe dabbawalas to travel in local trains.

“The staff of foreign consulates and high commissionshave also been permitted to travel in local trains, as per thedirectives received from the Ministry of Railways,” he said.

Over 5,000 dabbawalas run the tiffin delivery businessin the metropolis.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, they used to deliverover two lakh tiffins to office-goers on normal working days.

They use suburban trains to ensure lunch boxes aredelivered at the destination on time.

Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer of theCentral Railway, said QR-coded ID cards issued by the stategovernment will be mandatory for them to travel in localtrains, but dabbawalas have requested that they be allowed totravel on their identity cards.

“If the Maharashtra government agrees to their demand,we will permit them to travel on their ID cards,” he said.

Subhash Talekar, spokesperson of the Mumbai DabbawalaAssociation, expressed happiness on being allowed to travel inlocal trains.

“Finally, after more than six months, we can resumeour service,” Talekar said, adding dabbawalas will now contacttheir customers and request them to resume the tiffin service.

He was, however, skeptic about resumption of servicesin full capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, every dabbawala had on anaverage 20 to 22 customers, but I doubt all customers willresume the service immediately as many people are stillworking from home,” he said.

Another issue is that many housing societies are stillnot allowing outsiders into the premises, he said.

Talekar said the dabbawalas will start tiffin deliveryeven with four to five customers initially as they know itwill take some time for things to normalise.

“We are going to follow the COVID-19 safety protocolslike wearing masks and gloves, using sanitisers andmaintaining social distance and will also ensure our customersabout it,” he said.

Most of the dabbawalas hail from Maval area of Pune inwestern Maharashtra.

Following the enforcement of lockdown in March thisyear, many of them returned to their native places in Junnar,Ambegaon, Rajgurunagar, Maval, Haveli, Mulashi and othertalukas in Pune district.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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