A wave of joy spread among the dabbawallahs in Mumbai, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday nominated the world-famous lot among nine people and organisations to take forward the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
As soon as the news broke on television and word spread, the 5,000-odd dabbawallas, who deliver around 2,00,000 dabbas across Mumbai daily, began to celebrate. “By nominating us, the Prime Minister has gone beyond celebrities and business tycoons and encouraged hard-working ‘kaamgar’ (workers) like us. We are very thankful to him. It is a special moment for us,” said Subhash Gangaram Talekar, spokesperson of the Mumbai Dabey Wahatuk Mandal.
At around 11.15am, the time when these ever-busy men who ferry thousands of tiffin boxes across the city take a few minutes’ break, the dabbawallas celebrated their nomination by distributing laddoos. “It is a matter of pride for us. We are also aware of the fact that we now have a great responsibility towards the nation,” said Talekar.
Well known for their efficient and nearly error-free business model for 124 years, the dabbawallas said they won’t waste a moment and will carry out the drive as early as Friday. Again at 11.15am, hundreds of them will wield brooms and clean up the area around Lower Parel station.
“Our brooms and garbage bags will be ready at the station when we reach. We plan to complete our task in 20 minutes, as we cannot delay in supplying the dabbas,” said Bhasaheb Karvande, the association’s chairman.
Talekar said their contribution to the national cleanliness movement, launched by Modi on October 2, won’t end with the drive. “We will carry the message to all our clients every day. We all live in chawls and small houses, and have always seen our areas full of filth. We know that cleaning up the country is no mean task; it is a long and slow process,” he said.