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A City Rises To Support Its Migrants Amid Covid-19

Posted: May 27, 2020

City of Bangalore stands with its migrant population amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and ensures to provide help with NGOs, government and police.

When things go wrong it is natural to find someone to put the blame on. However, when things are on the right track, the appreciation may or may not be so forthcoming.

To elaborate on this, when a VIP or a celebrity gets away with something that a commoner wouldn’t be allowed to, the blame is quickly placed on political personalities, government officials, and in some cases even the police officials. Amid Covid 19, there also have been many news surfacing of the police brutalities and as always we have been quick to condemn them. Contrarily there also have been some reports of Police acting swiftly and being empathetic to the citizens thereby garnering some appreciation for the less liked force in India.

The Saga Of The Helpless Migrants

Before I write more about the police and government officials, I wish to move on to something that caught my attention some time back. Right from the time the lockdown was announced on 25th Mar 2020, the migrants have always been in the news. We have seen  visuals of many of them walking back to their hometowns, clamoring to get into buses and now when special trains too have been arranged for them to get back, one can still see the enormous number of people heading back. From the time of the lockdown announcement on 24th Mar to the special trains now on 1st May, it has been a long wait for the migrants all over the country.

Things were no different for the migrants in Bengaluru. The majority of these people were people working in small enterprises like restaurants and saloons, labourers in industrial areas or students. Some of them hadn’t received their salaries, their hostels had closed and were now homeless and with little or no money.

One of the unfortunate things was that most migrants didn’t have their ration cards. They therefore couldn’t avail any relief that were offered through the Public Distribution System. Even if they received aid from their respective state governments, this was simply not enough to cover their basic needs. Their only source or solace was the charitable organisations that reached out to them. Bengaluru has thousands of these migrants who were spread over a radius 60 kms around the metropolis and its suburbs.

A City And Its NGOs To The Rescue

Many NGOs like Prestige Foundation,  Akshaya Patra, Sampark and Sunbird Trust, to name a few took it upon them to reach out to these migrants with meals as well as ration kits. As of 29th April 2020 for instance, Prestige Foundation has provided cooked meals or food rations to over one and a half million people. Akshaya Patra  too have reached out to the needy at Bengaluru, Bellari, Hubli and Mysuru. Likewise, Sampark has provided provided food and rations to several thousande people.

An NGO that has however come into the limelight for their notable contribution to mitigating the problem of migrants at Bengaluru is a relatively small organization, Sunbird Trust. Registered at Bangalore, the Trust is essentially an organization working to achieve peace in conflict affected areas of North East India with its motto of Peace through Education. Owing to their deep engagement with local communities of North East, this organisation was approached for assistance for the North East migrants at Bengaluru and that is where their focus of attention has been so far. They took it upon them to provide relief these migrants of North East India who worked or studied here but were now rendered helpless, with no way to return back, some of them even facing difficulties owing to their limited knowledge of the local language. It is estimated that there are close to 3.5 lakh people from North East states who work or study at Bengaluru. Out of these, it is estimated that about 30,000 people require assistance during the ongoing crisis.  As of 30th April 2020, Sunbird Trust had reached out with ration kits to more than 10,000 people. These kits included rice, dal, oil, condiments, tea, sugar and even sanitary requirements. Reaching out effectively to such volumes of people was no mean task. However, organisations like Prestige Foundation, Hasirudala and XLRI Alumni Association provided generous support in the form of pre packed ration kits. Local North East associations such as Manipuri Diaspora Bengaluru, North East Solidarity and North East Welfare Association of Karnataka  provided effective “last mile” delivery and ensured the rations reached people living across the city and its suburbs.  Sunbird Trust’s own undergraduate students studying at Bengaluru helped pack thousands of kits.

Unmatched Synergy

As a city, Bengaluru seems to stand out for a fair degree of synergy between the Government, police, and NGOs. Officers from every arm of the Government having a break from their normal duties were drafted into the Covid Relief efforts. The entire workforce of Civil Defence and Home Guards were roped in either for ration distribution or for helping patrol the streets for violations. The Bengaluru police played a crucial role in the issuance of curfew passes and even deputed policemen to ensure smooth distribution of rations. Without doubt, this cooperation facilitated aid reaching many of the neediest. While there have been umpteen instances on Social Media showing the ruthlessness and irresponsible behavior of the policemen and the callousness of politicians and government officials, here is another, lesser seen side to the narrative. As of 4th May, while the curfew relaxations are in place, the situation may improve for the migrants. Given the sheer magnitude of the problem and despite all efforts, there may always be many who have been left out of the safety net. If at all, at Bengaluru at least, this perhaps could not be attributed to apathy of either the Government of the NGOs. Only time will tell if the migrants would rush to return back home at the first opportunity or whether they would prefer to continue in the city that appeared to come to their rescue at a time of such dire need.

While the government is endowed with ample resources, the challenges for NGOs seem to be far from over. Without a shadow of doubt, it is these NGOs that provide that critical link so that resources reach the neediest through the ‘last mile’ delivery

As Dalai Lama says ‘ We all have a responsibility to ensure the welfare of humanity, to try to make this a happier more peaceful world’. The people of Bengaluru have exemplified those words  by coming  together to ensure the well-being of the migrants living in their beautiful city.

Image Source:Manipuri Diaspora Bengaluru

A homemaker, a freelance writer who loves to travel and has a passion for reading.

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