LUCKNOW: While cooked food and water is being regularly distributed by the NGOs and individuals among the migrant workers who are walking home, groups of people have now started taking a more practical view of the situation and are distributing items that are normally not considered as 'essential'.
"There is no point in giving ration kits to those who are walking on the roads. Since the temperatures are rising by the day, we want to make sure that the migrants do not suffer from dehydration. We are distributing glucose packets, ORS packets and sherbet bottles so that the migrants and small children can remain hydrated in this heat. We also give out biscuit packets," said Anil Srivastava, a retired bank employee who has set up a stall near the Jhansi bus station which has seen the maximum influx of migrants in recent weeks.
In Lucknow, near Banthra, wives of retired army personnel have set up a stall with used slippers and shoes which they are giving to migrants who need them.
"Since we cannot buy new ones in the lockdown, each one of us has taken out used slippers and shoes from our homes. The children have also contributed by giving up the extra pairs of shoes for the children of migrants. Most of those walking miles need shoes because their feet have sores and are bleeding. We also carry a first aid box and put ointment and bandages on the feet of those who need medication," said Savita Singh, wife of a retired colonel.
These women have also stocked up on sanitary pads. "We quietly ask the women in migrant groups if they need sanitary pads. Most of them do not have the money for this but every woman needs it," she said.
Residents of Chinhat area on the outskirts of Lucknow have bought hundreds of 'Frooti' packets and are distributing them to the migrant workers on the road.
"Giving cooked food in this heat can be dangerous because the food begins to rot very soon. The least we want in this situation is migrants falling ill. It is best to give them fruit drinks that keeps their energy level up and also hydrates them," said doctor P. K. Hajela who lives in an apartment nearby.
In another new initiative, Gurdeep Singh, has set up a stall with four mobile phones from where the migrants can call up their families.
"We found that majority of those walking to their homes have either no balance left in their mobile phones or their phones are not charged. We allow these people to call their family and also offer them 'sherbet' and biscuits. Many of them are overjoyed after speaking to their loved ones," he said.
Gurdeep said that his two brothers and sister have given their mobile phones for this. "My brothers and I stay here almost 24 hours of the day in turns so that the migrants can talk to their families. My father is happy that we are serving our brothers in some way," he added.