Create app to track and deliver food; also help migrant workers return to TN
After the lockdown came into effect, leaving tens of thousands of daily-wage workers in the lurch, Rajashri Sai, a Mumbai-based tech entrepreneur, and other like-minded folk decided to apply their skills to map the demand and supply of rations. On March 28, the group launched an app called Hunger Collective, which allows those in need of essentials to pin their location and requirements on a map.
Once their request is authenticated, the group can liaise with suppliers to direct resources accordingly. Now, a little over 60 days into their project, not only have they been able to provide rations to 80,000 people across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Faridabad in UP, Delhi and suburban areas, and Bihar, they also organised the first trains from Mumbai to Tamil Nadu.
Explaining how they came to be involved with organising the trains, Sai told Mirror that her organisation had received a distress call in late March, alerting them about 300 labourers who had been working on a railway project before the lockdown and who were living on the street outside Mahim station.
They also learned about hundreds of daily-wage workers stranded in Aarey Forest. While Hunger Collective worked with the BMC to ensure that they got two meals a day, they also realised that that wasn’t enough. “They needed to go back home to Tamil Nadu,” said Sai, pointing out that the language barrier made it virtually impossible for these groups to negotiate the system. “At the same time, they couldn’t carry on living in those conditions,” Sai said. Before they could proceed, however, Sai’s organisation had to get through reams of paperwork.
An advocate who supports the collective helped with this, and many NGOs coordinated with the team to ensure the smooth flow of data to police stations. Despite the fact that she is no stranger to relief work, Zia Hajeebhoy, a supporter of Hunger Collective, who runs a leisure sailing company with her husband, told Mirror she was stunned by the volume of paperwork. “The police and in particular, the Director General of Police Sanjay Pandey was extremely helpful, but even so, it was a Herculean task to negotiate the process,” said Hajeebhoy. Offering an example of the hurdles they came across, Hajeebhoy said that one problem was that some of the workers held Aadhaar cards issued in Maharashtra. “One bureaucrat said ‘they are not migrants, they have homes in Mumbai’. But while they live in Mumbai, they live in the slums here, where social distancing is impossible.
And, sure, they have Aadhaar cards as without those they can’t get driver’s licenses or hawkers’ licenses…if they want to work in any company, they need Aadhaar cards. But they want to go back to Tamil Nadu, because that’s where their homes are. They want to be with their families at this time,” said Hajeebhoy.
Ultimately, on May 23, with the help of a group of concerned people in the Tamil Nadu government and the Covid Task Force, the daily-wage workers found themselves among 1700 aboard a homeward-bound train. To supplement the railways’ effort, Sai’s group even organised food for the passengers by collaborating with local administration and civil society. “Since then, we have sent two trains to Tirunelveli and are now trying very hard to get the fourth train with over 1700 people to go to Viluppuram,” said Sai, whose group started fundraising around mid April to fund its activities, and hopes to find generous donors..