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City dabbawalas a hapless lot as schools ban their entry

Thirty-five-year-old Rajesh Mankar,who has been delivering tiffins to students of St Mary’s School for the past nine years,is on the verge of losing his livelihood.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Pune |
June 13, 2009 3:02:48 am

Thirty-five-year-old Rajesh Mankar,who has been delivering tiffins to students of St Mary’s School for the past nine years,is on the verge of losing his livelihood. And he is not alone. There are some 160 dabbawalas like him in the city who will lose their source of income as a large number of schools have decided to stop them from entering the school premises for delivering tiffins to students.

The move is a security measure taken up by the schools during the admission season. The decision,however,has left the dabbawalas,many of whom have been in this profession for the past 25 years,jobless. “I deliver over 30 tiffins every day. Yesterday,when I went to the school,I was not allowed to enter and was told that dabbawalas would not be allowed inside the premises from now,” Mankar said.

Schools like Bishops,St Helena’s,Rewachand Bhojwani Academy and St Anne’s had adopted the new rule from the beginning of the year. Travelling on bicycles,the dabbawalas claim to earn Rs 100-200 a tiffin per month,making it an average earning of Rs 3,000-4,000 a month. “The school authorities claim this is a security measure. But we have been,for generations,delivering tiffins and even the teachers know us personally. We are willing to carry identity cards and submit the necessary documents like ration cards and police checks,but the management is not open for a dialogue,” said Pramod Shinde,another dabbawala.

J Simoes,principal,St Mary’s School,said the move has been taken keeping in mind the security of students. “We used to open the gates for dabbawalas for two hours. However,during that time some antisocial elements would also enter the premises and threaten us for admissions. Besides,cases of abduction and kidnapping are quite common these days.”

Apparently,the management had also initially tried to find a way out. “On June 3,our staff members had personally collected the tiffins at the gates and distributed them to students,but it takes time,” she said.

Shashikant Dighe,superintendent,St Helena’s School,said,“It is not only about the dabbawalas. We do not allow any outsider to enter the school premises from 8 am to 2 pm. Even parents are allowed to visit schools only on Tuesday and Thursday.”

The parents were also caught unawares. “We were informed that children need to be independent and need to carry their own tiffins. There are no security concerns that have been conveyed to us. We are abiding by the rules,though it is quite inconvenient,” said A N Lad,a parent.

Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said he had held a meeting with school principals a month ago and requested them to take precautionary measures during the admission season as they had received complaints from some schools last year.

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