05/28/2020, 00.00
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Alumni organise airlift to repatriate 180 migrants

by Nirmala Carvalho

This is the first time in the history of Indian aviation that a group of private individuals organise the evacuation of stranded migrants by plane.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Alumni from the National Law School students, Bengaluru, raised enough funds in less than half a day to charter an Air Asia A320 aircraft to fly 180 migrant workers from Mumbai to Ranchi today.

This is the first time in the history of Indian aviation that a group of private individuals carried out an evacuation by plane, of stranded migrants in this case.

“We have a commitment from the Jharkhand government that they will take care of the migrants once they reach Ranchi,” said one alumnus.  

Funds have been put together by former students. Migrant labourers were identified through various NGO networks.

Goretti Xalxo, coordinator of Pahunch, an NGO that works with tribal migrants in Vasai and Mumbai, approached former students of the National Law School to fund the flight of 20 tribal migrants cared for by the NGO, including a 2-year-old child, from Mumbai to Ranchi for their return home. This was accepted and the migrants arrived home today.

Xalxo made arrangements to bring the 20 tribal migrants to Mumbai's national airport from Vasai, and personally helped them with the papers and procedures, waiting with them until they entered the passenger section of the airport. A tired Xalxo returned home early in the morning.

“This morning 20 tribal migrants from Jharkhand, stranded by the lockdown, without jobs, income or accommodation, flew from Mumbai airport to Ranchi,” Pahunch coordinator told AsiaNews.

These “migrants worked as domestic workers and industrial labourers around Vasai and Mumbai,” she explained. “They had no money when I met them. We gave them rations for two months. They wanted to go home but had no money.”

"We were given an article according to which law graduates were arranging an airlift for migrants. We asked for the list of the tribals blocked in Mumbai. I approached the law graduates and spoke to the tribals, who were speechless, they couldn't believe it.

“Their first reaction was to wonder who would buy expensive tickets [for them]. We talked to them and counselled them.

“Since the lockdown was put in place, tribal migrants have experienced only cruelty, misery and even threats and beatings by the authorities. Their employers made false promises to them, and did not pay their wages. They lost their jobs and were left on the streets, without shelter or food.”

“Thanks to benefactors, Pahunch gave them some cash so that they would have some. The airlift was a blessing for them. They left Mumbai at 6.00 am and arrived in Ranchi at 8.30 am.

“Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren met them at the airport and arranged transport for them to their respective villages. We were told that these people were filled with emotion and joy.

“Jharkhand’s chief minister deposited 2,000 rupees in their accounts as a first cash payment. May God bless Jharkhand Chief Minister Heman Soren,” said Goretti Xalxo.

Photo credit: Goretti Xalxo

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