"As lawyers, we’ve got some responsibility to society", ILS alumni tie-up with Goonj to aid migrants, farmers in Maharashtra amid COVID-19
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"As lawyers, we’ve got some responsibility to society", ILS alumni tie-up with Goonj to aid migrants, farmers in Maharashtra amid COVID-19

The team proposes to carry the initiative further and aid more underprivileged persons in need. To this end, funding efforts will be kept open until July 23.

Bar & Bench

Alumni from the Indian Law Society (ILS) Law College, Pune have pitched in to alleviate the unfolding miseries of migrant workers and other underprivileged sections of society as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

A group of ILS graduates have partnered with NGO Goonj so that ground-level aid can reach those in need, particularly in the drought-prone state of Maharashtra which houses their alma mater.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, core members of the ILS alumni organising the initiative observed that efforts were rooted in an acknowledgement that as lawyers, there was a social and moral responsibility owed to society amid the crisis.

We’ve been watching the whole story unfold and we felt that there was not much that was being done by the government. We felt that as lawyers, we’ve got some responsibility to society. Most of us don’t come from Maharashtra, but we went to Pune to study at ILS”, said Kosturi Ghosh, a core member organising the initiative.

Even as aid efforts are being mobilised from various quarters, the alumni were prompted to explore ways to help out “even if it is in some small way."

The interesting aspect, Ghosh pointed out, was that the initiative aids two ends of the spectrum. It not only aims to provide sustenance and hygiene packages to those in need, but it also aims to buy vegetable produce and food supplies from farmers in Maharashtra whose earnings have taken a hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.”

Given the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to reach out to an NGO that works on the ground so that aid can be given to those in need, including migrant workers, slum dwellers and others who fall through the cracks of society.

To this end, the alumni reached out Goonj and asked if they could identify people in need in Maharashtra who could be helped by the initiative. What culminated was a voluntary initiative christened ‘Goonj Rahat Covid - ILS Alumni’ initiative which started off with a target of Rs 10 lakh to begin with.

Funds raised are being used towards providing amenity kits for 670 families, with each kit containing dry rations, toiletries and other household materials. Additionally, the funds are also being used to support local farmers in and around Pune by purchasing vegetables and food supplies from them.

The aid efforts as part of this initiative are being localised to areas of Maharashtra such as Talegaon, Kondhwa East, Sawargoad, Kule, Nandgaon, Sathesai, Kolwan, Kashi, Poud village, and Mulshi Block, among others.

"Another great part about this initiative is that it brought together a lot of ex-ILS students all across the country and even outside the country on a platform to come and do something together for this cause”, said Delano Furtado, a core member organising the initiative and working on bringing together ex ILS students to an alumni platform.

What started out as a strong desire and thought to do something in return for those less fortunate and adversely impacted by the pandemic in and around the city of Pune (where we all started our journey as law school students), soon gathered enormous interest and momentum across the alumni. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm and support we received from the alumni when we were preparing for the campaign and then with contributions coming in spontaneously from alumni and friends. We are also hoping that we can raise additional funds beyond our intended target until the close of the campaign to do something for children that have been impacted in different ways by this pandemic” added Delano.

It’s been super to see everyone rally around a cause dear to so many of us and hopefully this serves as the catalyst for many more initiatives going forward.”, said Mihir Rale, another core member of the group.

While a lot of us were making our own small contributions, it was wonderful to connect with friends and alumni from over the years and be a part of the movement to bring about a more structured and responsive mechanism that can help people. Having the benefit of some stalwarts of the legal industry support the initiative is encouraging in bringing together the alumni as the aim is to try and support as many people and causes as we can together” said Vaibhav Gaggar, a core member of this group.

Since there was no formal alumni network readily available to socialise the cause and raise funds at short notice, we had to leverage off our relationships with crowdfunding platforms like Milaap and put together a campaign story using our own creativity and with the help of social media”, said Praveen Raju, another core member.

The initiative achieved the initial target of Rs 10 lakh within two days, after it kickstarted on Monday, July 13.

The team proposes to carry the initiative further and aid more underprivileged persons in need. To this end, funding efforts will be kept open until July 23. The additional funds collected will be channelled into another COVID-19 related cause.

“… all funds collected in excess of Rs 11 lakh will be channelised into a new similar deserving project keeping our donors in the loop”, the team states on its fundraising page.

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