Alumni from Bengaluru’s National Law School of India University (NLSIU) have come together to raise funds and provide food donations to migrant workers returning to their hometowns in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to resolve the problems we saw on the news and make a difference in some way,” said Rabindra Jhunjhunwala, a partner at Khaitan & Co and part of the group.
Moved by the struggles impoverished workers faced as a result of job losses, money shortages and arduous journeys home, the NLSIU group last month set a goal of fundraising ₹6 million (US$80,000) to provide food kits for 100,000 people boarding the special shramik (worker) trains home.
Along with Jhunjhunwala, the core NLSIU group comprised alumni Sameera Vasudeva, Yash Asher (partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas), Poornima Sampath (vice president, legal, at Tata Sons), Gopal Sankaranarayanan (senior advocate, Supreme Court) and Saikrishna Rajagopal (founder of Saikrishna & Associates).
“Serving the shramiks”, as the project is known, raised its funding target within two-and-a-half days. “People kept sending money,” Jhunjhunwala told India Business Law Journal. In the end the group collected around ₹8.3 million well exceeding their fundraising goal.
About 120,000 migrant workers received food bags containing bread, biscuits, bananas, oral rehydration salts, face masks and bottled water. Some of the food was donated by vendors and the rest was purchased using the money raised. In total, the team served nine railway stations across four Indian cities, primarily in Mumbai and Delhi, but also in Balasore (Odisha state), and Ahmedabad.
Along with food kits, the team arranged for cooked meals to be delivered to migrant workers stranded in relief camps and makeshift homes when trains had been cancelled. They also delivered rations the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, and to migrants travelling through Gujarat.
“Going to the railway station and seeing the condition of people there was difficult,” says Jhunjhunwala. “It puts things into perspective. It is a big character-building exercise and you can’t help but count your blessings.”