No migrant should go hungry: The group behind Telangana’s massive food relief camp

Ganga Reddy Mothe, a documentary filmmaker, collaborated with a group of teachers and volunteers to provide food and water to migrants walking to their home states.
NH44 Perkit migrant relief camp
NH44 Perkit migrant relief camp
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“No migrant worker should go hungry. It’s our responsibility to reach out to the poor of our country,” Ganga Reddy Mothe, a documentary filmmaker turned food relief camp organiser, tells TNM. Due to his efforts, thousands of migrant workers are fed near the Perkit Chowrasta on National Highway 44 in Nizamabad. 

Ganga Reddy has set up one of the biggest food relief camps in Telangana, which is getting a lot of praise from the public.

Following the lockdown, thousands of migrant labourers who were stranded with no jobs and income in the southern states, including Telangana, started walking on the highways to reach home amid the pandemic.

Starting in April, Ganga Reddy travelled back and forth on NH44 with some food packets and water bottles. He spoke to migrants walking home about their plight and provided them food and water. At the same time, a group of teachers too were watching out for migrants on the same highway and feeding them.

Ganga Reddy coordinated with the teachers and engaged a vehicle to ferry the migrants till the Maharashtra border in Adilabad. Soon after, he collaborated with the teachers to set up a food camp with limited funds. His Facebook lives and updates with the stories of the migrants moved several good Samaritans abroad and in India.

Soon help flooded the Perkit camp in the form of cash and materials such as rice, vegetables, water bottles, and footwear. It was then that the team set up signboards outside saying ‘Free food available here’. A few volunteers would stand on the side of the road outside the camp and offer migrants water and sanitiser while food was arranged inside in minutes.

The food relief camp has been running relentlessly for over 40 days now. Around 30 teachers are actively involved in the drive. Rajendar, a government teacher and volunteer, says, “Our District Collector advised us to feed the needy in this time of crisis. We were doing what we can with limited resources, soon many more have come forward.”

According to the organisers, they fed at least to 2,000-3000 people per day. So far, nearly 1 lakh people have been provided food. The team also arranged trucks or other transport for hundreds of people who were walking. The volunteers would negotiate and convince truck drivers to ferry the migrants for as much distance as possible, by giving them some payment.

Krishna Reddy and Srinivas are teachers who also ensure that some packed food is given to the migrants, as they have a long journey to their home states and may not find such camps outside Telangana. In some cases, the volunteers are also handing out sanitary pads.

“It’s a huge success, we’re happy that we’re running this. What touched us is that some migrants gave us the groceries they had with them as their contribution to our camp,” they say.

Rajesh B, Mandal Educational Officer (MEO), organises the volunteers and assigns tasks to his fellow colleagues, ranging from buying vegetables to packing food.

Ganga Reddy, who has been actively coordinating the campaign on social media, engaged with another relief camp that was being organised by a group of social activists. Now that the Hyderabad camp is closed after there are less migrants on the road, all the relief material is being diverted to the Perkit camp. Trucks, private buses, vans and cyclists are now being fed.

When asked how long he and the other volunteers will continue to run the camp, Ganga Reddy says, “We somehow established the idea of community help. Many who are moved by the ground reality are ready to provide assistance, local youths have come forward. The camp will run as long as it is necessary. Now we’re feeding some 1,000-1,500 people in a day. We’ll do this even if there are 50 people who need food each day.”

In another food relief camp set up near Medchal on Hyderabad’s Outer Ring Road by a group of social activists and other volunteers, nearly 2.6 lakh migrants were fed and thousands were provided transport to their respective states.

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