Former Mumbai Dabbawala Association spokesman held for fraud

The Ghatkopar police have arrested a former spokesperson of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association for allegedly duping his 61 colleagues of Rs7 lakh in an alleged loan fraud case.

The accused, Subhash Talekar, was arrested near his native home in Pune on Monday night and produced before a court on Tuesday. He has been remanded to police custody till January 9. Apart from Talekar, a co-operative bank official and two of Talekar’s associates have also been booked in the case, and the police are on the lookout for the trio.

The complainant in the case, 38-year-old Sachin Gavade, along with other members of the association, approached Ghatkopar police station in February 2019 and registered a case against Talekar and his two associates, Vitthal Sawant and Dashrath Kedari.

As per the complaint, the accused took a meeting with the 61 dabbawalas in September 2015 and allegedly promised to give each of them a free moped to make their commute easier while delivering lunch boxes. The accused told the dabbawalas that there is a cooperative bank which was ready to provide them with the mopeds. The accused then took the signatures of the 61 people on papers and also collected their documents, said a police officer.

After a year, the dabbawalas started receiving notices from the cooperative bank stating that the loan they had taken to buy the mopeds were sanctioned. The loan amount was transferred to the vehicle company to provide the mopeds. Thirty-eight of the 61 dabbawalas received the two-wheelers, but their documents were not cleared by the regional transport office (RTO) not did they did not got proper documents for the mopeds. The remaining 23 dabbawalas did not receive the two-wheelers, deputy commissioner of police Prashant Kadam of zone 7 (covering Mulund, Bhandup, Kanjurmarg, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar areas) said. However, all of the 61 dabbawalas had to repay the amount for the loan taken on their names, since 2015, which has incurred to around Rs7 lakh.

“We conducted an inquiry into the matter and booked three members of the association, including Talekar, for cheating, criminal breach of trust and common intention” said senior inspector Nitin Alakhnoore from Ghatkopar police station. The inquiry against the cooperative bank involved in the matter also ongoing and the official who connived with the Talekar and his associates will be arrested once the role is verified, added Alakhnoore.

“There is an allegation that Talekar had taken the money on the name of the association, but we are verifying it, added another officer.

Alakhnoore said the investigations in the case had begun in 2019 after the case against Talekar was lodged, but last year, investigations faced some roadblocks owing to the lockdown.

“He had also moved the Bombay high court for anticipatory bail. After the court rejected the bail, we arrested him,” Alakhnoore added.

Ulhas Muke, the chairman of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charitable Trust (NMTBSCT), which is the official body of dabbawalas, welcomed the development and said the accused has been “ruining the good image” of dabbawalas with such fraudulent practices.

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