From delivering personal protective equipment (PPEs), to raising funds, many NGOs and communities have sprung into action worldwide to tackle the COVID crisis. As one among these many acts of kindness, the efforts of the alumni of the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru (NLSIU) has stood out.
In light of the conditions of migrant workers traveling on Shramik trains, professionals who have graduated over the years from the premier institute started the initiative ‘Serving the Shramiks’. Their target was to reach 1,00,000 Shramik train passengers, to provide them with packets of easy to carry food and water, and to assist in arranging for transport in partnership with other organizations. The project was conceived of in the last few days of May after several disconcerting reports about hardships for the train passengers. The lawyers were overwhelmed that funds exceeding their funding target of Rs.60 lakhs flew in over just 48 hours. Their project commenced the next day on 3rdJune, helping Shramik passengers boarding multiple trains at stations in Mumbai, the NCR, and Ahmedabad.
Over the last three weeks, in partnership with mass feeding social entrepreneurs, Akshaya Patra Foundation, the group has managed to feed over 1,20,000 people, giving them nourishing food and enough water for the long journeys. Packed trains have departed for several stations across the nation including Howrah, Gorakhpur, Bhubaneshwar, Varanasi, Gadag, Darbhanga, Viluppuram, Patna, and Dimapur.
Many have stepped in to make the journey smooth with free goods – Britannia with bread, Farokh Irani with Honeybell cakes, Thyrocare with masks, as have volunteer groups across the country along with these NLSIU alumni, who have braved the COVID threats to step out of the comfort of their own homes to help distribute the food kits and water and to alert the passengers to stations, platforms, and schedules.
In their most recent activity, Serving the Shramiks offered support to the marginalized community not only at the railway stations, but also at relief camps where several thousands of people are housed at this time of crisis, awaiting their journeys home. The team distributed 1,500 ration kits each day for a week at makeshift tents and homes in Dharavi, Mumbai. They also served a thousand passengers headed for Uttarakhand on short notice at Thane station, where the Central Railways personnel and The Food Culture kitchen came together to make it a successful endeavor.
On a regular basis, these NLSIU alumni have also helped coordinate with nodal officers, Government servants and the Railways to ensure trains are quickly arranged to ferry thousands home. Mumbai-Viluppuram, Thane-Haldwani, Mumbai-Ranchi, Delhi-Purnea and many others have been put together at short notice thanks to their efforts.
The team behind Serving the Shramiks includes eminent lawyers, Rabindra Jhunjhunwala, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Poornima Sampath, Yash Ashar, Sameera Vasudeva, Saikrishna Rajagopal and Nikhil Chandra.