In the last six months, millions of migrant workers lost their jobs and sources of income and consequently, left their homes in urban areas and went back to their villages. Many of them walked or cycled thousands of kilometres.
However, once they were home, their troubles did not subside as they stared at unemployment, poverty and starvation. Even today, thousands of labourers are without any source of livelihood as one in five families is turned away by the Centre-run MNREGA scheme.
Moved by the alarming situation, actors Manoj Bajpayee and Shabana Raza Bajpayee have launched a campaign ‘Shramik Samman’ along with Mumbai-based Helping Hands Charitable (HHCT).
The aim is to generate employment for migrant workers by starting small-scale businesses. It has a total of 74 projects that will cater to workers across India.
“There are 74 projects on the cards. The plight of the migrant workers has shaken us all, and sadly, their struggle to make ends meet continues. This initiative is the need of the hour. It’s a holistic approach to managing the rural economy. I will also be involved in raising funds,” Manoj Bajpayee, who will spread awareness and help in raising funds, told Mid-Day.
HHCT has been extending a helping hand towards the needy ever since the lockdown began in March. They have been instrumental in providing dry ration kits to about one lakh and have served more than a million cooked meals and PPE kits and other essential items in Maharashtra, West Bengal (Cyclone Amphan affected areas), Bihar, Delhi, Faridabad, Guwahati, Kerala, Karnataka and other states.
This new program aimed at boosting the vocal-for-local cause will provide resources for long-term sustainability.
For example, the organisation is working to establish a cold-pressed oil (kachi ghani) extraction unit in Bhagalpur, Bihar. Plans of a mask-making drive, women’s tailoring unit, and liquid soap and sanitiser manufacturing unit are also in the pipeline.
“The migration problem goes beyond the pandemic. The lack of opportunities and resources in rural areas force the villagers to move to cities. We want to create a long-term solution so that they have a choice to stay back and earn a livelihood. Our projects will not only generate employment but also save dying skills. From monetary support to guidance of marketing skills, we will handhold the villagers at every stage,” Bilal Khan, a spokesperson from HHCT tells The Better India.
In the first week of August, the initiative executed its first livelihood project for the women of the Banswara Community in Faridabad (12 quarter, ward no 21) who migrated from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. They have been traditionally involved in products like baskets, coasters and mats from bamboo and cane.
“These women workers earning paltry amounts lost everything during the COVID-19 lockdown and had no earnings to even take care of their daily food requirements. Shramik Sammaan, through our volunteer, Vimal Bhai, [who is] a Peace worker and Environmentalist, came forward to help them organise and restart the making of the bamboo products that they are so proficient with. 17 women artisans have found employment and livelihood through this and the demand is local as well as recurring. These baskets and other bamboo products are now being sold not only in Faridabad but also in Delhi,” said Manoj.
The NGO is presently working on developing an e-portal where migrant workers can directly sell their products to customers. Till then, people can get in touch with them to purchase items.
Like Manoj Bajpayee, many celebrities are using their fame responsibly in spreading awareness and bringing to light on-ground issues. From Dutee Chand, Shah Rukh Khan to Sonu Sood, many have and are helping the needy not just by donating money, but also going a mile extra. Read more here
Six-months down the surge of the global pandemic, it is fairly clear that the crisis is not going to end anytime soon and we might have to permanently adapt to the new normal. Efforts like using local skill to manufacture local goods and sell them in local markets could be a win-win solution.
Get in touch with Helping Hands Charitable here
Edited by Gayatri Mishra