With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the employment loss of the city's iconic Dabbawalas, they are struggling to feed themselves and their families. NGOs like Mukkti Foundation have done their bit and provided food ration to many. But, is it enough? Aishvary Thackeray, son of Smita Thackeray and grandson of Balasaheb Thackeray, pledged his pocket money to Smita Thackeray helmed Mukkti Foundation. The foundation in-turn pledged its support towards members of the dabbawala association and fed a 100 dabbawala families.
But there are over 3500 dabbawalas who have been left to fend for themselves due to the government mandated lockdown! Living in remote villages across Maharashtra, the hard-working lifeline of the city's corporate sector, often have no source of livelihood during such trying times.
Santosh Sudam Pawar of Kalhat, Vadgaon, Maval Taluka District, Pune, says, “It has been very difficult since the lockdown! Luckily, I managed to reach my village before the nation-wide lockdown was announced.” Anand Pawar of Kalhat added that he has been awaiting assistance ever since! “I have borrowed a few thousand rupees from people I know just so I can brace the income loss. Me and my brother have over 10 people to feed in the family.” Vilas Mahadu Shinde from Gadad, Chakan, averred, “I did get ration assistance initially, however as the lockdown got extended, I ran out of supplies.”
Smita Thackeray, Chairperson of the Mukkti foundation, said, "We were associated in the past with the dabbawalas to spread HIV awareness in the city. My son Aishvary read a story about their hardships and expressed the desire to help them using his personal savings. I was more than happy to know the feeling of help and support one sees in the youth of today." Mukkti Foundation is working on trying to provide help for the remaining dabbawalas as well.
Smita Thackeray's elder son director Rahul Thackeray and his physiotherapist wife Aditi Redkar Thackeray have also been helping police and hospital staff with shields, organising food every day for the poor and helping sell farmer producer from 15 villages among others.
"Our grandfather taught us that service to humanity should always be our priority. We all strive to follow his principles. We pray we get muktti from CoVID19 soon," avers Rahul Thackeray.