The 130 year old body, Nutan Tiffin Box Supplier Association, has alleged that some people have been “raising money in the name of Mumbai’s dabbawalas” and have sought the home minister’s help to curb the malpractice. President of the dabbawalas’ association, Sopan Mare, said that a person named Abhishek Ekal has set up Dabbawala Foundation and also launched a website (www.dabbawala.in) a year ago. Ekal has stoutly refuted the allegation.
Mare said Ekal was trying to cash in on the popularity of dabbawalas and has been delivering lectures about their work by claiming to have ample knowledge of their distribution network. Mare alleged that Ekal’s aim was to extract money from corporate houses and foreigners who have, with time, grown to admire the dabbawala network.
The dabbawalas’ body comprises over 5,000 members who deliver almost 2lakh tiffin boxes across the city every day. Their skill and efficiency had won them appreciation from Prince Charles who met them during a visit to the city a few years ago.
Mare said Ekal had put up the dabbawalas’ achievements on his website. “We tried to stop his illegal activities but he ignored our demand due to which we approached the home minister,” he said, adding that Ekal was trying to snatch the popularity they have earned over the years. “Ekal has nothing to do with dabbawalas or our profession and he has never worked with us,” said Mare.
Patil has assured the dabbawalas of action. Former secretary of the dabbawalas’ association, Gangaram Talekar, said Patil had told them that he would order an inquiry and get the guilty punished. “This [Ekal] is not the first person trying to take advantage of our hard work. Earlier, another person had tried to do the same and landed behind bars,” said Talekar. “People are taking advantage of our lack of education.”
On his part, Ekal rubbished all allegations. He said his sole aim in setting up the foundation was to raise funds for dabbawalas. “Some of their old members are part of the foundation which was registered in 2012... We have 75 members who distribute tiffins in Masjid Bunder,” said Ekal.