Mumbai dabbawalas, residents came on streets to help ‘starving’ farmers

MUMBAI, March 14, 2018: While about 50,000 farmers who walked up to Azad Maidan here in the blistering heat here covering about 180 km from Nasik have reached home, stories of human kindness to help them are pouring in from different corners.

Mumbai’s dabbawalas and residents, who are no way connected to the agitating farmers came out to help thousands of farmers with food and water.

Subhash Talekar, spokesperson, Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, “We thought of helping farmers with food as they are our food providers, and had come from remote parts of Maharastra. We asked our men working between Dadar and Colaba to collect food and deliver it to our farmer brothers at Azad Maidan.”

The dabbawalas, provided food to the protesters as a part of their ‘roti-bank’ initiative. According to Talekar, the Mumbai roti bank, of which the dabbawalas are an integral part, deploys GPS-tracked vans to collect excess food from eateries, hotels, public functions and households, to distribute it among the poor and hungry.

Even the Mumbai residents were also seen offering food like vada-pav and other food items and water to farmers. Many residents come out on roads with home cooked foods packed in newspapers and polybags and distributed them to farmers. They also carried drinking water with them, which they offered to the farmers.

The agitation of farmers was called off on Monday after the Maharashtra government agreed to the list of demands of farmers. “We have accepted most of their demands and have given them a written letter,” Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said on Monday.

On March 6, over 50,000 farmers had begun walking from Nasik and covered 180 km on foot to stage a protest outside the Vidhan Bhawan in Mumbai in a bid to force the state government to accept their demands. The march, organised by the Communist Party of India – Marxist’s farmers body All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), was supported by Shiv Sena, MNS, CPI, AAP and Swaraj Abhiyaan.

The farmers also managed to ensure no inconvenience to students taking the HSC and SSC exams as they walked on Sunday night to Azad Maidan. “We do not want to create problems for students and the office goers. We don’t mind suffering more but we don’t want our students to suffer more,” Ashok Dhavale, national secretary of ABKS had said.

The farmers had demanded fair prices and complete loan waiver among other things. They also demanded a change in the plan to link rivers in Nasik, Thane and Palghar districts so as to ensure that tribal lands are not submerged and water from the scheme be made available to these areas and other drought-prone districts.

They also protested against the state government’s land acquisition for projects such as high speed rail and super highways.