Many schools in Mumbai, especially the convent schools in South Mumbai have barred the famous dabbawallas of Mumbai to deliver tiffin to school students.
The schools said that some parents fear that their child’s health will be affected by the food from outside, or sharing tiffin that does not suit their taste or religious ideology. They also cited the dabbawallas as a security threat.
The drastic drop in the volume of supplies caused resentment amongst the dabbawalla association, which called the ban a money making racket by the school’s canteen contractors. They added that the contractors are in league with school principals to share profits with them.
Reportedly, Raghunath Medge of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers, the main union of tiffin carriers, said that as many as 50 percent of all schools across the city, mainly convent schools, have stopped their entry. He says that the number of tiffins which they supply to schools has dropped to 20,000 from a lakh tiffins.
Miffed by the school’s decision, Subhash Talekar of the Mumbai Dabbawallahs’ Association issued a press note which read, “On the one hand, schools are banning junk food while on the other, discouraging children from eating healthy, home-cooked meals. They are forcing students to buy food from the school canteen just as they once forced them to buy books, shoes and uniforms from the school or from retailers appointed by the school,”
However, many schools have rubbished the allegations. Fr Anthony Fernandes of St. Teresa’s school, Girgaum has cited reduced school timing as the reason for barring the tiffin service in its school. It said that the convents timings had been reduced to five hours and the students were back home in time for lunch.
The school’s further asserted that parents whose children are studying in these convents are mostly in unison with the school’s decision. Schools said that the parents also believed that these Dabbawallas are a security threat and moreover, some fear health hazards while others believed that children sharing their tiffins do not suit their religious ideology.
While convent schools invoked the restriction, Mumbai BJP President Ashish Shelar called this ban inappropriate. In a letter to CM Devendra Fadnavis and Education Minister, Vinod Tawde he said, “Dabbewalle of Mumbai is world-famous for their management skills, since 1980, they have been working extremely hard for 365 days to deliver Dabbas to 2 lakh people daily. These services are working very honestly. Therefore, it is unfair to ban them from delivering school food. The school should take care of the safety of the children, but the services should be continued in the same manner as other service providers are allowed to continue.”
Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis has ordered the Mumbai Police Commissioner to convene a joint meeting with the school authorities and the Dabbawalla union to resolve the issue with immediate effect.
Earlier there have been incidences where few Missionary schools have displayed religious intolerance. Last year a convent school in Gujarat had barred girl students from entering school if they were found to be wearing henna (mehendi) on their hands. The school later apologised for the same. In another such incident, a convent school teacher had cut off a Rakhi from a student’s wrist for which the Gujrat government had sought an explanation for hurting religious Hindu sentiments.
We had earlier reported that in a similar incident that occurred in Kerala, the principal of a government school in Pallakad had issued a diktat, threatening the students with expulsion if they are found to be using religious symbols like kumkum on their foreheads or sacred threads on their wrists. Earlier, a government school run by an evangelical Christian affected an order on girl students not to wear flowers and bindi.