Foreign lender HSBC on Thursday announced a Rs 15-crore grant to support the Dabbawalas of the financial capital, who have been virtually without work since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The assistance to the dabbawalas otherwise a regular feature on the city's local trains, crowded commercial districts, and the residential pockets will include help on food security, life insurance, education support for their families, and livelihood support in form of new bicycles when the lockdowns are lifted, an official statement said.
The dabbawalas are a very complex network of tiffin carriers, where a person picks up a tiffin from the residence of a job goer on a bicycle, passes it on to someone who ferries it in the luggage compartment of suburban trains, who passes it to another colleague who takes care of the last mile on the bicycle.
The network seen in the movie 'Lunchbox' runs in the reverse way to get the boxes back in the afternoon, and is feted for its error-free service.
The dabbawalas have defined the grit and spirit of the city of Mumbai. An integral part of the city's workforce and community, they have been hit hard by the pandemic with loss of livelihood, the bank's interim chief executive in India, Hitendra Dave, said.
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The bank is working with the NGO United Way Mumbai to reach out and extend help to the dabbawalas, he said, hoping that this financial assistance will aid their resilience during these challenging times.
It can be noted that recently, Social, a chain of restaurants, had tied up with the network where dabbawalas will be taking the food parcels to patrons.
The HSBC statement said the dabbawalas service 2 lakh people daily and the pandemic brought all their operations to a sudden halt as people started working from home due to mobility restrictions.
The Dabbawala service has never been shut in the past 130 years. But since March 2020 it has come to a total standstill. With no earnings over the past 14 months, dabbawalas are in financial crisis and it has been difficult for them to feed their families, Ulhas Muke, the president of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust, said.
He said many of the dabbawalas have returned to their villages, while some are making do with selling vegetables and working as drivers.He said the mobile tabs to be given by HSBC will help children to study individually as most of them are studying in groups on a shared smartphone for the past year, while the new bicycles are helpful because repair cost for the earlier bicycles is very high and unaffordable.