Shramik Mahila Mandal, the brainchild of Mrs.Barve is the first food centre in Vasai, Mumbai entirely run by women at ‘No Profit, No Loss’ basis. It was founded by Mrs. Indumathy Vishnu Barve or Barve madam as she is fondly known as, 25 years ago. Today it stands tall with over 7 centres in and around Vasai and employs over 250 women.
Mrs. Barve was a teacher in New English School. And in order to utilize her spare time, she started a papad business. Mrs. Barve says “It started off as a hobby. I often made food for the staff and students for special occasions and picnics. Everybody loved it!”
Shramik Mahila Mandal was then formed with the help of four other women. Initially, they started off with just the papad business. But later on as the demand grew, they expanded to snacks and then finally to proper meals. Most of the women who were benefitted from this cause are from the lower strata of the society, educated up to primary level and some of them are sole bread winners of the family. They are given a stable salary and an atmosphere of social, financial and emotional support and security.
These women work for 6 hours daily in shifts and breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided to them. Also, they are given bonus and gifts for festivals. Keeping the importance of health in mind a free annual medical check up is provided to the employees. The education of their children is looked after by this organisation. In case of financial distress, employees are provided loans.
Such an organisation with a social cause can’t climb the ladder without help, Mrs. Barve says, “People did donate, they donated wholeheartedly, not only money but also, utensils and other necessities. The donations are utilised to upgrade the facilities and infrastructure.
On asked about the speciality of the place she says,”The food prepared here is hygienic and nutritive at affordable prices. Unlike commercial food joints, where only profit maximisation is the aim, here the women prepare food with love and it tastes exactly like homemade food.” During festivals due to huge demand for festive snacks, extra help is hired. The food centre is frequented by people of all ages, gender, income class and religion. Shramik Mahila Mandal has become a substitute for homemade food in the vicinity, especially for bachelors, working women and school children.
A recipient of many awards across India, it has maintained its quality of food all through the years and has helped countless women. They have opened branches in college canteens, hospitals and also provide food for programmes, parties and functions. During natural calamities, they provide free food to the people in need.
A pioneer in the true sense, Mrs. Barve at the ripe age of 93 has not retired yet and still runs the eatery with an iron grip. Recently recovered from a near- fatal illness, she was taken care by the women of Shramik. Sacrificing a comfortable stay with her daughter in USA instead she has chosen to stay alone.
“Shramik is my Family”, says Mrs. Barve.
Address: New English School, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Vasai (W) – 401201
To contact Shramik- 9920585763