In a novel initiative, former students of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore (NLSIU) have raised over Rs 12 lakh in less than half a day to lease an aircraft in order to fly 180 migrant labourers from Mumbai to Ranchi amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
Shyel Trehan, one of the members who led the initiative, said that the initial plan was to transport the migrant workers via bus, the cost of which was only marginally lesser compared to booking a flight.
Priyanka Roy, another NLSIU alumni involved in the initiative, said,
“We initially planned to send a small group of people on regular commercial flights. We had organized for 45 tickets, but the flight was cancelled last minute, as the Maharashtra government allowed only 25 flights per day. We went back to the drawing board to see if we can send them by bus and other modes.”
She said that Mumbai was chosen, as the cost of living there was high, and the conditions for migrant workers were the most unfortunate. Similarly, Jharkhand was chosen due to the dearth of flights going there.
Trehan also added that most of these people who are ready to fly tomorrow were on the brink of starvation.
On the groundwork for the initiative, Trehan commented,
“A small group of 6 of us spent most of the time over the last week organizing this. The biggest challenge for any class initiative is to partner with the right people on the ground who can identify the vulnerable. We worked with Priya Sharma from urhope.in; she has worked with migrant workers and had a database of migrants workers who were planning to go back home.”
The team said,
“What started as a batch initiative (Batch of 2000), we raised this money with the help of the alumni network in no time. This also had the support of Tata Group and Air Asia. In general, NLSIU has an ethos of giving back, so we did not find difficulty in raising the money.”
One of the member, Roy will be at Mumbai airport at 2 am tomorrow to ensure that migrant workers board the flight. The Air Asia flight from Bombay is scheduled to take off tomorrow at 6 am.