CUTTACK: More than two months after lockdown, hunger still remains a real threat for thousands of migrants who have been walking miles back home from their places of work. Their plight has drawn the attention of hundreds of people from the civil society who have contributed their bit to keep the wayfarers hydrated and provided meals. Cuttack-based industrialist Avinash Khemka has turned messiah for thousands of helpless migrants returning home along NH-16.
With support from Cuttack Police, he has been providing cooked meals and packaged drinking water since April 16. Moved by the images of the hungry, tired migrants, Avinash formed teams of his company staff and initially provided at least 1,000 packets of cooked food along with packaged drinking water to all those travelling through the National Highway. As the reverse migration increased, so did the number of cooked meals and water.
For last 15 days, his day has been starting at 5.30 am as he continues to provide more than 3,000 meals, both cooked and dry, and one litre packaged drinking water on NH- 16 at Bandal near Tangi every day. Each cooked meal includes seven puris and aloo dum, or eight idlis along with sambar and chutney. The dry food packet comprises 500 gm of chuda or flattened rice, 150 gm sugar, a pouch of Amul milk powder and ORS each, a sachet of pickle, two biscuit packets of 100 gm each, a reusable cloth mask and soap. He has also arranged eight 200 litre drums of drinking water and a 4,500 litre water tanker at the site for workers to brush and wash themselves and refill their jars if any, for use on the way.
“It was distressing to see on news channels the plight of migrant workers and decided to extend help. I will continue relief distribution till the exodus ends,” said the businessman who claims to have provided food and drinking water to more than 56,000 migrant workers on NH-16 till date. Avinash has also been arranging conveyance for all those unable to pay the commutation fare.
On June 3, he spotted a heavily pregnant woman with two kids and husband travelling in the cabin of a trailer truck from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh to South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. He sent them home in his four-wheeler after arranging food. So far, he has arranged transport for more than 100 distressed migrant workers.