Mid-April-2020: A Desparate Request for Help Spread Viral in Social Media Touched Us.
A Week Later: We served hundreds of needy people and still had several requests pending. We appealed to all to join in this nation wide donation drive.
End of May: We served almost all requests came to us and still continued further ...
During this prolonged lockdown all over India, the worst affected people happened to be migrant workers. Among them, the most vulnerable are Adivasi of eastern India staying in different cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Bhubaneswar etc and even small industrial towns such as Coimbatore, Tirupur, Mangalore, Kolapur, Surat etc.
SEA being an pan-India association of Santal Engineers having branches in most of the cities in India, it has been able to extend its helping hand and reach out to these migrants during this critical time. SEA has also collaborated with local Santal Associations at Bangalore (Bangalore All Santal Association - BASA ), at Hyderabad (Santal Welfare Association of Hyderabad - SWAH), at Kolkata (Rusika Madwa and Kolkata Adivasi Club) and at Bhubaneswar (Adim Owar Jarpa) to execute the massive donation drive. Apart from this, SEA has also donated at Chennai, Kolkata and different small towns of Tamilnadu, Maharastra, Gujrat, Andra Pradesh and West Bengal. While we have served Santals and in geneal Adivasi of Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, even from Nepal who are settled in these metros.
We have tried to fulfil different requirements of these needy people. For most of the cases, we have given them ration such as rice, dal, oil, potato, onion, salt, masala along with sanitizer and soap. For some places where our members could not reach due to distance or in different town, money was transferred for them to fulfill their requirements. In some cases we have received request to arrange cooking gas and some cases support for safety and security.
After interactions with several migrant workers, we understood their struggle with the govt system, people around them and their work and income with merely managebale life at city and family back at village. Here are some of the cases:
In one case, house owner of a rented accommodation of these migrant workers, demanded advance rent for next month as he was thinking that the workers will leave their village. In several cases, the workers were not paid by their supervisor showing some unreasonable excuses, they were not paid or paid only for the period before lockdown. While most of these workers payment cycle starts from 10th of every month, they got salary of hardly 10-12 days, which was insufficient to sustain for whole month. Even in some cases, they were not paid at all with apprehension that once the workers are paid, they may leave to their villages and mass leaving of such unorganised workers will lead to closure of their factory until they return back after several months. This leads to the owners or supervisors of workers to pretend for unavailability and didn't pay their due salary.
In some cases, the owners thought that they have to provide support to workers for longer period during lockdown which may be extended beyond 3rd May. Thus, instead of giving salary at one go, they are been paid weekly which is again meagre as lesser days’ salary got stretched over longer period.
Usually these migrant labourers don't get legal gas cylinder as they lack proper documents and they are also not sure how many days they will stay in those city. Thus, they prefer purchasing commercial gas cylinder available at open market in stead of domestic gas cylinder. During this lockdown, they struggled to get such commercial gas cylinder. In some cases they had to collect dry sticks from nearby trees and cook in traditional fire stove.
Most of these people have registered for help from respective state govt Covid-19 migrant helpline number. In some cases, after several follow-up, the state govt officials responded saying they have processed and sent the requisite fund to the govt of the state where they are working. However, usually those helps do not reach to these migrants. Apparently, the help material first goes to localities and then to migrants, By then the amount gets over or reduced drastically.
In some cases when state govt tries to transfer money to them directly, it also does not work as several of them don't have bank account or have accounts at village and they don't carry ATM. Usually they deposit on those account to send money to their family back at village, but they themselves don't withdraw. Thus, even when several NGOs or govt tried to send, it didn't succeed. In some cases, even when money is sent to an account for multiple people, the account holder grabs all money. However, we followed up with multiple people before and after sending and ensured that the money got distributed with all.
From such experience of working with migrant workers, SEA understands several problems that migrant workers face throughout the year. Some are as the safety and security, uncertainty in job, payment issues and deprive of basic government support facilities to people under BPL etc. In coming days, SEA will work with government to possibly address those issues with new approach with technological solution.
Everyday fresh requests are coming for help and SEA is working to provide them ration at their doorsteps. Even now SEA is coordinating with these migrant workers who are interested to return back to their villages. In coming days, SEA will continue to work for such migrant workers as and when it will be required.
Contributed Through SEA
Contributed Through Bangalore All Santal Association
Contributed Through Santal Welfare Association of Hyderabad