Ex-MITian helps migrant workers get back home
Updated: Nov 15
Aditya Anamey Das
October 30, 2020
Saisri helping stranded migrant workers
It was around mid-noon when my friend and I rounded that corner to the Manipal Forensic Lab. Masks on our faces, we looked at the otherwise deserted once-bustling street. As we ran through the questions we had revised over and over in our minds, she stepped out of the forensic lab. An air of urgency seemed to follow her as she quickly walked towards us. We were soon standing face to face with the alumni turned saviour of the migrants, Saisri Akondi, an alumni of the Manipal Institute of Technology.
The ex-MITian had managed to save 49 migrants who had been stuck at the Udupi railway station ever since the lockdown began. Saisri had come across these migrants one day when she and her friends decided to step up and help them out. She had contacted their respective states and managed to raise enough money to get their return tickets booked. Our very own little Sonu Sood, this girl was nothing short of an inspiration standing right before my eyes.
She told us about the migrants who had once left behind their families and their homes to travel to Karnataka to help build the railway lines. This was their livelihood. Everything was going well for these migrants until the lockdown began and the contractor who had once hired them turned his back on them. They were left without any shelter. There were children and women among the group who had not seen a roof for days.
Surviving on whatever leftover food they had and tap water, these people had no one to turn to. They tried approaching the police but were told to stay at the railway station and to fill out the migrant form for government support. These people, who did not even have enough food to feed all the mouths, found themselves staring at a dead-end when one of them tried accessing the migrant form. They did not understand a word from the migrant form. Their problem wasn't just one of lack of comprehension, they also lacked the means to fill a form that asked for a duplicate copy of one's identification proof with their passport size photographs attached.
Brought up in poverty, these people did not possess any identification cards that could help them get back home. On top of that, they lacked the means to fill the form as most of them did not even have a mobile phone. It was only when Saisri spoke to them that she came to understand the gravity of the situation. One of the women was pregnant and due to give birth soon. These people had nowhere to go and no one to place their faith in.
Desperation is often contagious and the desperation to get back home brought about the desperate will to get these people to safety. Saisri was determined. She spent the next few days raising money and going around office-to-office, asking for any assistance she could avail. She started collecting information on these migrant workers to fill out their forms.
She told us that she needed help with the database. We spent the next few nights glued to our screens, filling out excel sheets after excel sheets from handwritten notes provided to us by the migrant workers. We soon found out that she had arranged for KSRTC buses to drop these people home. As we transcribed the last of the poorly written notes, there was hope in our hearts once again. Hope that there were people out there who cared. People like Saisri Akondi.
Edited by Aditya Das