On the 29th of April 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs finally issued an order allowing the movement of migrant laborers in India stuck away from home due to the lockdown in place since the 25th of March 2020.
Following the order, the state government of Maharashtra started preparing to send the migrants back home, especially from Mumbai and Pune, where lakhs of workers come in from various states across India to work as daily wage laborers.
Millions of workers found themselves without jobs or a source of income. With the state borders being sealed and the trains and buses suspended, thousands of men, women, and children were left with no other option but to walk, sometimes more than 1,000km (620 miles) to reach home.
More than 100 migrants have died- either in accidents or through sheer exhaustion.
For all those who don’t know, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood, along with his childhood friend Niti Goel, has been actively involved in helping people impacted by the lockdown.
Sonu Sood has become a messiah for the migrants stranded in Mumbai by arranging buses for them to travel back to their respective hometowns. He has even launched a toll-free helpline through which one can reach out to his team for help.
“ Migrant workers have helped build our roads, homes, offices. We cannot stand and watch them be homeless”, says actor Sonu Sood.
As part of the ‘Ghar Bhejo’ campaign, he has helped approximately 12,000 migrants reach home, and has made arrangements for another 45,000 to go home safe.
“There are millions of people who need help and we are trying the best we can. I don’t think we will stop until we help the last person who wants to go home. It is hugely satisfying to reunite them with their families”, he says. His family members, his friends, and chartered accountant have been looking into different aspects of the work: “A lot of small things require coordination, like deciding who travels on which bus at what time. Some of my friends also pick up migrants stranded in different areas of Mumbai and drop them off at the buses”, he adds.
The actor calls it a team effort and says the people in the film industry also have pitched in to help. He mentions how Bollywood director Farah Khan contacts him on a daily basis to know the requirements and helps with organizing water for everyone involved.
Though Sonu does not disclose the amount he has spent over the last few weeks, reports indicate that the buses cost anywhere from ₹65,000 to ₹2 lakh for hire. Sonu began hiring them at his expense, and as the word spread, people have come forward and have offered help. There are people who did their bit by providing food, water, and other requirements.