Mumbai's famous dabbawalas now want to drive cabs to supplement their meagre monthly income, earned by ferrying thousands of lunch-boxes daily, an office-bearer said in Mumbai on Wednesday.
"The state government is planning to revive and release around 14,000 new taxi permits for Mumbai and its suburbs. We want a reasonable 10-15 percent reservation from this, exclusively for dabbawalas," Subhash Talekar, spokesperson of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (NMTBSA), told IANS.
Justifying the demand, he said that the small quota would take care of around 2,000 dabbawalas, of the total 5,000 NMTBSA members who help serve hot meals to over 200,000 Mumbaikars at their workplaces daily.
"We have been providing a service with clockwork precision to the people of Mumbai faithfully for the past 120 years, without strikes or agitations. After all this hard work, a dabbawala earns an average of Rs.8000-10,000 per month, which barely suffices in these days of inflation," Mr Talekar explained.
At present, some dabbawalas are engaged in plying cabs, mostly hired, in the night shifts; some take up other part-time work to supplement their modest income and make ends meet, he said.
A delegation of NMTBSA members will soon call on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Home Minister RR Patil with a formal request in this regard, Mr Talekar said.
According to official sources, the state government is planning to revive around 14,000 lapsed taxi permits which will be allotted in Mumbai.
Of these, around 1,000 are proposed to be reserved for women cabbies in view of a few exclusive women's cab fleet operators which have started in recent years.
Another 4,000 permits may be reserved for fleet taxi operators and the rest would be allotted to individual cabbies through a quota system.
Mr Talekar said that from the total quota, the government should consider allotting 10-15 percent - or roughly 2,000 permits - for the dabbawalas to help them in these difficult times.