Migrating relief: Chennai comes forward to lessen labourers' plight

NGOs are finding out that their coffers are not without a bottom. Donations from the public have helped these organisations stretch their resources for the long run.

Published: 03rd May 2020 10:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2020 05:51 AM   |  A+A-

As NGOs and private trusts picked up the baton, relief began reaching even those who had been ignored or neglected. (Photo | Martin Louis/EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The lockdown may have started with news reports documenting the plight of migrant workers caught between the virus and abysmal living conditions with the loss of daily wage jobs. It was weeks before the government was able to usher in relief measures for this population. Even as the system did what it was meant to, help began pouring in from many corners of the city.

As NGOs and private trusts picked up the baton, relief began reaching even those who had been ignored or neglected.

Having taken up the responsibility of attending to more and more people every day (what with the end of the lockdown still remaining uncertain), these NGOs are finding out that their coffers are not without a bottom. Donations from the public have helped these organisations stretch their resources for the long run. Here’s how you can help.


This Hyderabad-based NGO is focused on mobilising the youth to help bring relief to migrant worker populations around the country. For this, they are collaborating with COVID 19 Food Security Group. Currently established in all major cities, they have expanded their project Milaap to reach out to migrant workers stuck during the lockdown.

“We have been raising funds for healthcare, education, sports, single mothers and disaster relief since our conception in 2010. Recognising the need of the hour, we directed our attention to the migrant communities in need during the pandemic,” says Mayukh Choudhury, co-founder and CEO of Safa Society. In Chennai, they have provided relief to migrant workers stationed at T Nagar, Adambakkam, Thiruvallur and Perumbudur. Each kit costs Rs 500 to Rs 550 per family and consists of dry rations and healthcare items.

“We have been able to raise over Rs 50 lakh and used it to distribute over 2,80,000 meal equivalents across all the cities we are functioning in. Our next target is to distribute 25,00,000 kits by raising over Rs 3 crore funds,” Mayukh adds.

Virtual account name: SAFA Society - Milaap Account number: 2223330066517785 IFSC code: RATN0VAAPIS, Bank name: RBL


Identified as an independent student body recognised by IIT Madras, ChintaBar has been delivering one month’s supply of rations to migrant workers and their families who have been affected by the lockdown.

They have reached out to over 2,000 people so far.

“We cover around 27 households daily and spend around Rs40,000 every day. We are completely dependent upon donations to fund the relief works,” says Sreehari, a volunteer with the NGO.

The group has also been distributing sanitary napkins, paracetamol and pain balms to daily wage workers and members of other marginalised communities.

“Our volunteers have been working day and night to also provide PPE kits to medical staff,” Sreehari adds.

The team’s target is to reach around 30 households everyday, working their way all around Chennai.

Account name: Azhar Moideen Account number: 201018211683 IFSC code: SBIN0001055
Bank: State Bank of India Branch: IIT Madras Gpay/PhonePe number: 9995949575 UPI ID: azharmoideen@ oksbi


Aware India, a five-year-old NGO, has been distributing dry rations and essential commodities to the most vulnerable sections of the society and villages that are inaccessible.

So far, the organisation has provided over 240 ‘Bags of Hope’ with dry rations to over 244 families — daily wage workers, people from the Irula community and migrant families in seven hamlets in and around Thiruporur and Kelambakkam.

“As part of our holistic development programme at the Chemmenchery Housing Board, we were constantly in touch with the families there. Post lockdown, we continued to do so, understanding and assessing their situation.

Two weeks ago, we decided that it was time to reach out and help them. We started giving out dry rations. The government, on its part, announced that it would give the May month’s ration kits in April to the families in the resettlement area,” shares Sandhiyan Thilagavathy, founder of AWARE.

When he was made aware that relief and aid had not reached many remote parts of the state, thanks to the requests coming in for their help, his team began bringing these enquiries to the government’s attention.

“The interior parts of Kanchipuram and Chengalpettu are in need of help. In the next phase, we aided over 120 Irula families in Nelvoy and Katchut villages with 48 kits. We also reached out to 140 Irula families in Nandhiyambakkam,” he says, adding that several gated communities have come forward to do their bit.

“Gated communities are sending requests and contributing to support their house-helps. We are accepting those requests and facilitating five-six families procure provisions daily,” he adds.

For details, visit: Chemmenchery Helpline number: 8122241688


The NGO Bhumi, along with its band of volunteers, corporate partners and other social enterprises, has been actively providing relief and funds for daily wage labourers, migrant workers, children in shelter homes and those affected by the lockdown.

“Until two weeks ago, our helpline was receiving about 50 calls per day; now, it has spiked to about 300. So far, the primary requests have been for food provisions and medical supplies, followed by transportation. We have been working with partner organisations and using their help to fulfil the requests,” shares Prahalathan Karunakaran of Bhumi. To ensure help reaches those who are most vulnerable the NGO has set up a well-laid system.

“Once volunteers or groups submit the profiles of those who need help, the details are verified. Our data volunteers re-verify the information, map fundraisers, contact suitable vendors and suppliers, and transfer funds accordingly,” he shares. Bhumi has also partnered with OLX Pledge to provide relief measures to migrant workers and support their livelihood.

For details, visit: Helpline number: 9999713542


A collective of 30 volunteers from the Save Chennai Beaches Campaign have come together to provide relief to migrant workers trapped in the city since the lockdown. As of April 25, the team has been able to raise around Rs 11,27,445 as ration allowance and has spent it in assisting over 4,758 migrant workers in Chennai. When the public sought a portal where they could donate for the team’s cause, Sumanasa Foundation (an NGO that supports artists) stepped up and offered theirs,” says Sharadha Shankar, a volunteer with the collective.

Given that the lockdown has severely restricted their movement within the city, the collective has stuck to providing financial assistance.

“For basic cooking materials like dal, rice and spices, we provide an amount of Rs 35 per person per day,” she explains.

The team’s help is all the more vital for those families left without a ration card and are thus far from government-sponsored relief.

Although the collective focuses on migrant workers, they have also managed to reach out to other communities — transgender persons, fisherfolk, and other daily wage workers — as and when they receive a call for help. Besides providing for rations, the team is also giving PPE (personal protection equipment) kits for essential workers.

Account name: Sumanasa Foundation Bank: Axis Bank Account number: 911010012570386
IFSC code: UTIB0000006


Many young adults in Tamil Nadu have enrolled with DYFI and are acting as foot soldiers of the statewide relief effort. The state division has reached out to around 150 migrant workers settled in districts like Erode, Coimbatore, Kanchipuram and Dindigul. The collective has also organised blood donation and medical camps.

“Without public transport, many senior citizens, diabetic people and young mothers aren’t able to go to the hospital for their routine check-ups. We identified the need for medical camps and coordinated with doctors who volunteered to set them up and do consultations,” says Anant Prakash, a volunteer with DYFI in Coimbatore district. The federation has also provided various communities with cooked food, PPE kits and reusable face masks.

Account name: DYFI South Chennai Dist Secretary Account number: 600072949 Bank: Indian Bank, Madras University Branch IFSC code: IDIB000M181


Established five years ago by Sagayam, an IAS officer renowned for his anti-corruption activities in Tamil Nadu, Makkal Pathai has been doing groundbreaking service in providing relief to various communities in many districts here.

“Our founder Sagayam believes that even the method of providing relief should be taken into consideration. We must not claim higher ground as we bring relief, because they deserve it and must treat it as a right in absence of pay,” says Chandra Mohan, coordinator at Makkal Pathai.

Towards this end, they do no distribute ration kits to each family. Instead, they leave all the supplies on a table and ask the people in the neighbourhood to take what they need.

“We provide on the basis of need and the contents of our ration packets change accordingly. Each kit costs approximately Rs 380,” he explains.

Account name: Makkal Pathai Account number: 35752101378 Bank: SBI, Arumbakkam, IFSC code: SBIN0006495


Based in Neelankarai, Saraswati Educational Cultural and Charitable Trust is working with the homeless who do not have any identification cards to procure food during the lockdown. As part of their initial project, the trust along with Equitas Trust is working in rehabilitation of these homeless and provide education for their children.

Priyadarshini Rajkumar, secretary of the Saraswati Educational Cultural and Charitable Trust, says, “The lockdown was quite unexpected. These labourers don’t have jobs anymore. So we thought of providing them at least with food. Once the lockdown ends and things start to stabilise, our project will continue. There are 10,000 such people in Chennai. We are working to help them out.”

So far, out of the 1,500-odd families that have been rehabilitated, only around 300 have government cards to avail of services like food rations. The trust is providing ration to all those who are still on the streets and to those who have been rehabilitated but are not covered by the government.

Email: saraswathitrust 20@gmail Contact: Priyadarshini Rajkumar at 9566209426

Inputs by Naaz Ghani, Roshne Balasubramanian and Veena Mani

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