Hit by two consecutive lockdowns, Mumbai’s popular dabbawalas will receive financial assistance to the tune of Rs 15 crore from HSBC India.
The foreign lender said that the assistance will be provided in association with United Way Mumbai.
HSBC India said in a statement that each dabbawala will be given ration and hygiene supplies for three months, along with life insurance cover through tie-ups with insurance providers.
The 130-year old food delivery network of Mumbai whose livelihood depends on delivering tiffins to office-goers in the city has been impacted badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to work from home model. The operations of the dabbawalas who deliver tiffins to almost two lakh people in Mumbai came to a sudden halt.
While there were over 2,000 dabbawalas prior to the pandemic, only 200 of them are working today and their earnings too, have plunged from about Rs 20,000 a month to just barely Rs 4,000.
“With no earnings over the past 14 months dabbawalas are in financial crisis and it has been difficult for them to feed their families. Many of them had to return to their villages as survival in Mumbai is tough. Many have taken up temporary livelihoods such as selling vegetables and working as drivers,” Ulhas Muke, President, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust, said.
The idea through HSBC’s pledge is to address the loss of income and livelihood of the dabbawalas by broadly covering food security, insurance, education support, and livelihood support in the form of bicycles to resume their services once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
HSBC also aims to facilitate online learning for school-aged children and grandchildren of the dabbawalas. The lender will provide educational tabs and access to digital resources to children whose education has been impacted due to a lack of smartphones at home.
Commenting on this initiative, Hitendra Dave, Interim CEO, HSBC India said, “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. Our support to the dabbawalas is in line with our endeavour of supporting the communities where we operate.”
He added that they are working with United Way Mumbai to reach out and extend help to the dabbawalas.
Muke said that HSBC India’s initiative will help the families cope with these very difficult times.
While the dabbawalas are ready to work, the repair cost for their bicycles is high and unaffordable.
“The bicycles will be important to resume our duties when restrictions are lifted and life returns to normalcy. Lastly, the insurance will help provide the much needed safety cover to us and our families,” he added.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)
First Published: IST