The fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown implemented to curb it have been severe, especially for the marginalised, such as migrant workers. However, in this unprecedented and difficult time, there have also been some heartening stories of kindness, of people going out of their way to help those in need. One such example emerged at the end of last month, when the alumni of National Law School in Bengaluru got together to fly home 180 migrant workers from Ranchi who were stranded in Mumbai on a special Air Asia flight.
As word spread, more people stepped in to help. The second flight was sponsored by Godrej, also on the Mumbai-Ranchi route; and the third from Mumbai to Bhubaneshwar by parents of Mumbai’s Ascend International School. And now, the alumni are looking to raise money for 10 more flights to send around 1,800 migrant workers stranded in different parts of the country back to their home states.
CK Nandakumar, a Bengaluru-based advocate and NLS alumnus, tells TNM that the initiative started from a discussion in the Mumbai and Delhi alumni groups. “Many of us felt that we need to do more, especially since we are fortunate and have resources. The government is doing what it can, but given that India is such a large country, it’s not always possible to have direct connectivity on some routes.”
“We were inspired by the philosophy of NLS’s founder director, Madhava Menon. He would say that lawyers should be social engineers. It’s the path that he showed us that we are trying to follow here,” he adds.
With this, the alumni started reaching out to their networks and are now working with several other organisations that are working at the grassroot levels. “We have groups of volunteers that are doing a lot of the coordination work. Some of them are arranging transport to get migrant workers who wish to go home from other districts to Bengaluru so that they can take the flight. We are also verifying their IDs, requirements like food, temperature checks and so on. Other volunteers are working with labour departments to get the appropriate approvals, permissions and No Objection Certificates. The government departments have been quite supportive of our efforts so far,” Nandakumar says.
A fourth flight is scheduled from Bengaluru to Raipur in Chhattisgarh for Thursday morning at around 8 am. It is being sponsored by Ajay Bahl, the co-founder and managing partner at AZB & Partners, a Delhi-based corporate law firm. His involvement is yet another example of how people have stepped up once they came to know of what the NLS alumni was trying to do.
Some of the NLS alumni are also working with the alumni of BITS in coordinating with the Akshaya Patra Foundation to arrange food for the migrant workers’ journeys home. “It’s completely voluntary, and some people are working day and night. But we are all buzzing with energy and spurring each other on,” Nandakumar says.
The NLS alumni has a fundraiser on Milaap now, where it is seeking contributions to sponsor 10 more flights for migrant workers. They are calling it Mission Aahan Vihan, and are hoping to pull this off in three weeks.
You can see the crowdfunding campaign and contribute here.