The GNLU Centre for Law and Society (GCLS), in collaboration with the Zenith Legal Aid Clinic, Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh), has undertaken to provide aid to the stranded migrant workers in various parts of the country due to the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown.
A similar venture has also been started by student of the National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal through their www.mazdoormitra.info website.
The GNLU collaboration aims to address the various issues faced by migrant workers with respect to food, shelter, and conveyance to travel back to their home states.
This apart, it also seeks to help the workers in getting passes/ tokens necessary for travelling back home. Starting of with just 40 volunteers, the team at present, has a strength of more than 100 volunteers from GNLU, who are working proactively to make this possible.
The team has been addressing these issues by getting in touch with the government authorities as well as various non-governmental authorities. As of now, the team focuses on ensuring that migrants from Maharashtra reach the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Adding on, it is stated that the initial project was to contact labourers who were given a seat in the special shramik trains who had otherwise been unable to get confirmation.
This eventually led to follow up calls to track and map labourers who were unable to take the train, aggregating their locations and providing that information to the Maharashtra government so they could make informed decisions on where and when to ply trains and maximise its impact.
Over a few days, the team has recieved a considerable number of phone calls, raising issues pertainting to food shortage, employer abuse and shelter problems.
The volunteers, therefore, have begun a trial and error approach of cold calling government departments, civil servants and NGOs to help resolve these distress situations.
The team also believes that this project could be more impactful if all Law universities come forward to participate, with each NLU taking one State under its wing. Work could then be carried out using a common playbook, pooling their lessons, contacts, NGO networks and experiences gained from this process of acting as bridge between distressed labourers and relief-providers.
Speaking on the same, Varun Srinivasan stated, "If all law schools come together, adopt a state, and coordinate with each other in developing a NGO and governmental network, the volunteers work on mapping where the distressed labourers are, we believe law schools will have provided a critical service in this troubled time."
In a similar vein, the Centre for Labour Laws (CLL) at National Law Institute University, Bhopal (NLIU) on May 11 announced the launch of its website “www.mazdoormitra.info.”
Mazdoormitra.info, one of the many initiatives of CLL, is a new website that aims to provide all the official and non-government information related to the workers in times of crisis in one place.
It contains essential particulars such as, the helpline numbers issues by various state governments, information of relief centres, social organizations which are distributing ration and food to the people in trouble, etc.
The website is updated regularly to incorporate new developments. Bar & Bench was told that the 18-member team has attended over 150 calls from migrants, as of now.
Speaking to Bar and Bench, Students Co-convenor of the project, Harsheep Singh Bedi also pointed out that they had to tackle two problems that the team had to tackle. He said
"First, some of the migrants, who were stranded wished to go back to their home towns. So, we tried to coordinate with the official authorities and try to find out if there was any particular arrangement for the same. Subsequently, we communicated whatever information we got.The other problem which was faced by them was regarding food and ration. The did not know where to go for food. Our team got them connected NGO's working in particular places and these NGO's, in turn, resolved their issues."
"We also help them in getting e-passes. Some of them had applied for the same but they were not getting it. This normally happens either because of some technical issues or at times, due to lag on the part of government authorities. In addressing these issues, we were mostly play the role of an 'intermediary.'"