NLSIU alumni, AirAsia, help migrants from Jharkhand

NLSIU alumni, along with AirAsia, help migrants from Jharkhand go home

Migrant workers before getting into the plane.

Bengaluru, DHNS: In a pioneering feat of organisation, alumni from the city’s National Law School of India University (NLSIU), sanctioned the booking of an airliner in a bid to return scores of stranded migrant workers to their home state.

NLSIU alumni who spoke to DH said that they had organised the flight after being moved by the plight of 169 migrant workers plus five children who were desperately trying to go back to their home state of Jharkhand.

“These were people who were carpenters, construction workers, car valets, taxi drivers, domestic workers who had no money left as a result of the lockdown and were desperately trying to get home,” explained one of the organisers, Shyel Trehan of the NLSIU year 2000 batch and currently an advocate in the Supreme Court.

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When asked what had prompted the flight, she attributed it to a deep-rooted dismay and concern about how migrant populations were faring amid the lockdown.

"When we were students, and Madhava Menon was the director, we were inculcated with the philosophy of giving back to society, instead of say: becoming engaged in the pursuit of money. So, while we were watching this national travesty unfold in front of us, some of us decided to do something, and that started the whole thing,” she explained.

The Air Asia flight carrying the workers and children left Mumbai at 6.25 am on Thursday morning and reached Ranchi, the Jharkhand capital, around 8.25 am, according to a spokesperson from Air Asia.

The flight had cost about Rs 12 lakh to organize, organizers said, all of it proffered from the pockets of the  NLSIU community scattered across the country and the world. “It was incredible, the money just poured in within two days,” Shyel said.

Second Flight Planned

Although the flight has been hailed as the first of its kind in the country, the group is already planning a second flight for next week.

According to Priyanka Roy, another organiser and also a 2000 alumnus now based in Mumbai, this first flight has given the group valuable insight about securing government permits and generally getting the airlift set up.

“Now, we know how to streamline the setting up of subsequent flights. The first flight took less than four days to organize. Then next can be done quicker,” she explained, adding that publicity about the first airlift had prompted independent donors to step up, volunteering to help.

The effort has sharply divided the NLSIU community, with some members seeing a second flight as absolving the government of its responsibility. However, Shyel and Priyanka said they do not see a second flight as letting the “government off the hook.”

“The fact that we, private individuals, are stepping because of a vacuum, because of a lack of facilities, does not give the government sanction not to do its duty,” Shyel said.

Priyanka added: “If anything, I hope this relief effort raises larger questions about the rock bottom sense of responsibility shown by the government during these times. If there are no funds to take of people during a crisis, where exactly are we headed as a country?” she asked.

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