KOCHI: After what was a long wait, 147 female and 20 male migrant workers from Odisha who were working at a textile factory and a plywood factory in the district left for their homes on a chartered flight on Friday. The women were in dire straits since they had left their jobs hoping to return home in the backdrop of the lockdown.
They had been desperate since the special Shramik trains were not immediately available and their money had got all used up. 'Umeed Ki Udaan' initiative might be the first to fly out migrant workers in a chartered flight in the country. According to Anup Manjeshwar, Head, Sales & Distribution, AirAsia India, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood arranged the chartered flight for the women after coming to know about their plight.
Commenting on the initiative, Sonu Sood said, “When I decided to come forward in support of these migrant workers who have been stranded, all I had in my mind was how I can help reunite them with their families and homes. I must thank AirAsia India for their immediate response and interest in supporting this endeavour. AirAsia India has been very appreciative that this 'Umeed Ki Udaan' may be the first flight for many of them. The Allstars of AirAsia who have been part of this journey are true COVID warriors and have done everything possible to make the guests on board comfortable.”
"The flight from Kochi Airport took off with the migrants at 8 am and landed at Bhubaneshwar at 10:30 am," said Anup. "The expenses of the flight were borne by the actor," he added. "AirAsia is happy to be a part of Sonu Sood's initiative and help people in need to get back to their loved ones. His compassion and empathy have been inspiring. We have always taken pride in connecting people and destinations. So to safely get these guests to their homes is another feather in our cap," said Anup.
He said, in reaching out to us, Sood has reinforced that especially in times like this, air travel remains the quickest, safest, most efficient and effective means of transport. Sood has been actively working to help the stranded migrant workers and had even launched a website. He had also made news for giving up rooms in his hotel for health professionals to stay.
Meanwhile, all the passengers on board the flight were happy and relieved to be finally going back home. Prashanto, a migrant worker, said, "We would like to thank Sonu Sood from the bottom of our hearts for making these arrangements for us. Words aren't enough to express our gratitude. We haven't seen our families for so many months and now will be able to meet them. Our happiness has no bounds."
According to a district administration official, the workers were transported in buses to the airport from their camps. The women labourers who worked in the textile factory were all from Kendrapara in Odisha.