BENGALURU: Images of thousands of migrant workers struggling for food, shelter and other basic necessities jolted Bengalureans out of lockown stupor over the last few weeks. While many people urged the authorities to come to their rescue, many good Samaritans in the city took upon the responsibility themselves – of providing succour to the stranded workers. Here are four of the several individuals who rushed to them with resources:
Chalking out solutions
Desmond T S Fullinfaw, principal, and Navneet Gabriel Fullinfaw, chairman, Fullinfaws College
Early in April, my father and I were driving back home when we saw a migrant worker trying to eat a bun on the road. We thought of buying him some food, and learnt that he was kicked out of the place he was staying,” recalls Navneet Gabriel Fullinfaw, principal, Fullinfaws College, who along with his father, college chairman Desmond T S Fullinfaw, has been providing shelter to migrant workers at their college premises since April 5. The inmates are given three meals a day, two rounds of tea, snacks and assistance to help them board trains to return home. The father-son duo has housed over 120 migrants since then, and currently have 40 workers staying at the college. He also credits his childhood friend Ashwini and an acquaintance Rezwan who have been big contributors to the cause. “The workers are welcomed with flowers upon their arrival,” says Navneet.
Packed with love
Every day, when Shramik Special trains depart from the city, they carry within them migrant labourers, and stories of their struggles. However, one less concern for them during the journey is finding food -- all thanks to people like Mohinder Jit Singh, who has now become a regular sight at the various railway stations in Bengaluru. The businessman, who is also the vice chairman and director of the organisation, United Sikhs, has been working with volunteers to distribute food packets to workers going to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and other states. Singh began the initiative on May 24, but realised some days ago that women and children needed extra attention. “Now we give each woman a packet that includes sanitary napkins and two tetrapacks of milk as well. This is in addition to rice, masala rotis, some dates, groundnuts and biscuits,” says Singh, who along with the 20-30 volunteers, has distributed over 1,500 such relief packs. If funds from the organisation fall short, the team raises money locally. The labourers queue up to collect the packets just before boarding the train, making it tough for him to interact with them. “But their body language shows they are grateful,” says Singh, who starts work in the afternoon and continues well into midnight. “It is exhausting,” he says. “But it is our seva to help the needy.”
Man and the masses
While Amod Vig was catering snacks to police personnel in March, he saw news of migrant workers who were starving and homeless. He sprung into action, and has supplied over 17,000 non-perishable food kits containing water, milk cartons, bananas, etc, since then. Over the last 3-4 days, he has started giving cooked meals and assisting temple priests with ration and money. Vig has been serving migrants around Jakkur, Manpho Convention Centre and Bangalore Palace. “A person from Attibele has also contacted me, saying lodging can be given to 100-200 migrants for 10-12 days. I now provide about 1,000 food kits a day,” says the self-employed chemical engineer who works with 28 volunteers, including his kids.While he made contributions from his own pocket, Vig also lauds the police, BBMP, residents in his neighbourhood, and Harmony, an NGO, for their cooperation. “I have distributed over 2,500 oral hygiene kits and 400 kits for women’s sanitary needs. A girl even brought her piggy bank to contribute,” adds Vig, who has also collected airfare for pregnant women and the handicapped.
Playing a bigger role
As an actor, Sabyasachi Mishra has played various roles in the Odia film industry. But none has made him feel as much a hero as the role he is donning these days. His Twitter feed is now filled with photos and videos of the migrant labourers who he is helping send back to Odisha, by personally funding and arranging for their travel. Recently, the actor came across a tweet by TNIE photojournalist Pandarinath B about a labourer from the state who had been trying to go back to Balangir. Upon learning that the family of seven included an older woman who had just suffered a stroke leading to paralysis, Mishra knew that train and bus travel would be a no-go for them.
“Flying them out to Bhubaneswar and then taking them via bus to Balangir was the only option,” he says, revealing that he spent `80,000 for the journey. “We had to wait till June 3 to do this since it wasn’t possible to get seven tickets on June 1 and 2. Splitting the group was not an option,” says Mishra, adding that Srinivas BV, president of All India Youth Congress, and Ashik Gowda, head of the youth Congress’ relief team Bangalore helped in proving lodging for them in the city. Mishra is now helping 100 other labourers from Karnataka. “I sort through my social media messages from 9pm to 4:30am to categorise the requests according to the state it comes from. I call them in the morning, and make arrangements to facilitate their journey,” says Mishra, who has helped 3,500 labourers so far. “I’ve never felt something like this before and plan to continue my efforts even when my shooting resumes,” he says.