The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work) and Action Aid India has conducted first ever census of street children in Mumbai. Their findings are:
- A total of 37,059 children were found to be living on the streets of Mumbai.
- Of these 905 children (2.5 per cent) were found living on railway premises such as platforms and trains.
- 70% of the children were boys, while 30% were girls.
- Over two out of five children witnessed verbal, physical or sexual abuse, torture, and forced starving.
- Around 24 % of children of the school going age were illiterate.
- Contrary to popular perception of runaway children, 65 % of street children lived with their families in temporary structures.
- Nearly 24% of street children were engaged in some kind of work including selling flowers, newspapers, fruits and other items, doing odd jobs at eateries, begging, rag picking, construction work etc.
- Around 15 % children were addicted to substances like drugs, tobacco, whitener, shoe polish.
- One in four children admitted not taking regular meals due to lack of money, illness, injury or dependence on others.
- 78% children weren’t aware of scope for any assistance from the police, government agencies or NGOs.
Share My Dabba is an initiative to get uneaten food in dabbas (tiffins) to hungry street children, using the dabbawala network and a small Share sticker. It makes sure less food is wasted and more people eat lunch.
The concept is simple – a dabbawalla collects lunch boxes (commonly called a tiffin) from family homes in the morning and then delivers them to workplaces for lunch. He then collects the empty tiffins and returns them to their home later in the afternoon. Despite this simple concept, the system itself seems miraculous and I’m not trying to sound precious here. Using bicycles and the city trains, there are between 4,500 and 5,000 dabbawallas delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes a day with great precision. They have been famously studied by Harvard and have a six sigma rating. An article in Forbes reports that they make maybe one mistake every two months. This system is over 130 years old, and the New York Timesestimates that it continues to grow 5-10% each year. Obviously the fee to have a homemade hot lunch delivered to your workplace is well worth it.
What if the lunch box is not empty? What if there are leftovers? Maybe you have more food that you can eat, or indulged in some office snacks and don’t feel like lunch that day? Put a Share sticker on lunch box before the dabbawalla comes to pick it up. The dabbawalla then sets the tiffin aside and the leftover food is given to street children.
Share My Dabba is, therefore, not a charity, but instead a creative approach to feed hungry street children in Mumbai.