On Friday, 48-year-old Vishnu will not deliver tiffins to customers for the first time in his 20 years as a dabbawala. He would, instead, head to Azad Maidan with his 5,000-odd fellow-mates to take part in the rally supporting Anna Hazare.

Mumbai's dabbawalas have decided to step up and join the wave of support for the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. Breaking their 120-year-long tradition of delivering dabbas for the first time, the dabbawalas will be going on strike on Friday.

More than 5,000 dabbawalas will take part in a rally from Mumbai's Churchgate station to Azad Maidan, both in South Mumbai. “This is going to be the first strike in 120 years of our existence. We have chosen to have this strike because we support Anna and feel corruption is an issue which needs to be addressed at the earliest .We are all victims of corruption. If the system has to change, we must all join hands together,” said Mr Laxman Sopan Mare, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association.

Incidentally, Friday is Parsi New Year Day, a holiday for the State Government and banks. However, Mr Mare said that their decision to strike was taken irrespective of the holiday, as several private firms would be functioning.

The Mumbai dabbawalas, with their never-say-die attitude have, delivered tiffins to their customers regardless of prevailing situations. “Even during the July 26 floods, we have delivered tiffins to all our customers. Many dabbawalas starved for hours but only went home after the job was complete. This is a special occasion and we will definitely pledge our support to Anna,” Mr Mare added.

He also said that the one-day strike will not create trouble for the Mumbaikers. “The Mumbaikers have strong willpower and one-day strike will not make so much trouble for them. In fact, many of them will be joining us in the rally,” said Mr Mare.

The dabbawalas, who deliver more than two lakh dabbas to offices every day, have a “six-sigma” certified error rate — reportedly on the order of one mistake per 6 million deliveries. The system of the dabbawalas has been developed over the years revolving around strong teamwork and strict time-management.

(This article was published on August 18, 2011)
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