Mumbai: BMC turns down Dabbewala Bhavan plan, cites lack of land

In the run-up to the 2017 BMC election, the Shiv Sena, which now runs the BMC, had in its manifesto promised to set up a ‘Dabbewala Bhavan’ to honour dabbawalas.

Citing non-availability of land as a reason, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration has turned down the Shiv Sena’s plan of setting up ‘Dabbewala Bhavan’ in honour of Mumbai’s famed dabbawalas.

The civic body has said that currently no land is available with the Estate Department and also the Development Plan (DP) 2034 does not have any reservation marked for ‘Dabbewala Bhavan’.

In the run-up to the 2017 BMC election, the Shiv Sena, which now runs the BMC, had in its manifesto promised to set up a ‘Dabbewala Bhavan’ to honour dabbawalas. The budget speech 2021-22 of municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal in February also had a provision of Rs 1 crore for setting up the Dabbewala Bhavan in central Mumbai.

Known for their outstanding management skills in delivering home-cooked meals to about 2 lakh employees in the city every day, dabbawalas have garnered worldwide praise. The tradition of dabbawalas has been in existence since 1870.

The proposal was first moved by Shiv Sena corporator Kishori Pednekar — who is now mayor — in March 2019. Pednekar’s notice of the motion to set up a Dabbawala Bhavan in Mumbai was approved in a general body meeting by then mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar.

Replying to Pednekar’s proposal, the civic administration has said that currently there is no land available for ‘Dabbawala Bhavan’ and the proposal will be considered after the civic body finds land and then reservation will be made.

“As per the section 36 of Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act (MR&TP), 1966, a reservation for Dabbewala Bhavan can be made on municipal land. However, currently there is no such land available with the Estate Department, so it is not possible to reserve the land. In future, if we get vacant land, then subsequently reservation will be made for Dabbewala Bhavan,” reads Chahal’s reply submitted before the civic general body meeting on September 23.

The civic body has also suggested another option of starting a dedicated area for dabbawalas on any reserved municipal community welfare centres by following the procedure.

Officials from BMC said that although provision has been made in the budget, land constraint is a major issue in setting up building for dabbewalas.

“Dabbewalas have a special bond with the city. Across the world they have attracted praise for management in delivering tiffin. Taking note of their contribution in Mumbai, there should be a dedicated Dabbewala Bhavan on the lines of ‘Varkari Bhavan’. The bhavan will serve as accommodation for their family members visiting Mumbai for treatment or other purposes. Also, the place can be used for resolving issues related to dabbewalas. The BMC must set up Dabbewala Bhavan,” Pednekar had said in the proposal.

Earlier, the BMC had also suggested that the building can be set up on private land if the owner comes forward to hand over the plot to the civic body for the project.

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