Freedom From Hunger – An Initiative for Migrant Labour
Interview: Sami Farhat
“Let the hand that gives be yours”
This is the slogan of an initiative begun by Sami Mohammed Farhat and a couple of his batchmates from St. Joseph’s College of Law, Bangalore. The initiative was directed at the migrant labour crisis that has plagued our nation since the lockdown was imposed, and is a powerful attempt at trying to create change at the grassroots level.
Samarth: Tell us a bit about the initiative, Freedom From Hunger, and why it is called so.
Sami: As an aspiring farmer and human rights diplomat, it was extremely difficult for me to see the plight of migrant labourers in our country. To see my fellow Indians hungry was really emotional. When I called my friend to tell him that we, as the youth need to do something about it, with our collective efforts, a miracle was born – ‘Freedom From Hunger’. This initiative was magic, it was planned and executed so professionally and easily. It only showed me that the Youth are capable of bringing about change in society and that a little humanity can change the world at large.
Samarth: Who were the people involved in the initiative?
Sami: The individuals who were a part of this initiative were my colleagues from college, my class, to be specific, as well as two teachers who were the facilitators of this initiative. In fact, we approached the college only after the establishment of our initiative. We reached out to these two teachers because we knew that they would help us, guide us, and support the idea.
Samarth: How did you go about raising finances for the initiative?
Sami: While planning the initiative, we took into consideration the quality and quantity, as well as the preferences of the migrant labourers. In fact, I also spoke to two individuals from the slum where these migrant workers were stationed. We worked on bringing out cost effective sources for our kits’ contents.
Hence, we went to APMC and Krishna Flour Mill to purchase these commodities. Each kit cost about ₹300, with 4 kg of rice and 1 kg of – salt, ragi, dal. Initially, our aim was to only collect funds for ₹9000 – 30 families. Each kit would benefit a family of four for one whole week. But with enthusiastic donators from our class, we reached a final target of ₹18,000. We used online methods such as Google Pay, Paytm, Phone Pe and bank transfers. In the first 27 minutes, we collected ₹4,700 and the bar of fund-raising kept on increasing – ₹11,000; ₹13,000; ₹15,000; and finally, ₹18,000. 23rd to 27th May was our fund-raising period. We stopped on the 27th.
Samarth: That’s so brilliant! How did you get the food to the labourers, and how could you ensure they all got their due?
Sami: So from the 28th to the 31st, Sahan and Sathvik went on to purchase the rashan and the director of our college gave us a classroom to store the rashan. Along with us, another individual from our class, Stanislaus helped us in this process, and the four of us began packing the kits. On 1 June, we went to the slum and contacted the manager of the slum located on General K.S. Thimayya Road, who helped us identify one member from each family and we distributed coupons to each representative, after which we came back at 2 PM and distributed the kits to the beneficiaries. The same process took place at NS Road. The distribution happened on 1st June.
Coupon Distribution – General K.S. Thimayya Road – 12 PMKit Distribution – 2 PM
Coupon Distribution – NS Road – 3 PMKit Distribution – 5 PM
Samarth: Did you face any linguistic challenges? Language barriers, for instance, considering these were migrant labourers?
Sami: Not at all. Especially since the labourers were from all over India, especially Bihar, I could communicate in Hindi and the manager there helped us a lot. In fact, while distributing, they all used the phrase, “Thank you” with a smile. In our distribution plan, we wanted to exhaust the distribution process as soon as possible since we were maintaining physical distancing. So, we didn’t want to talk much.
Samarth: I think we’ve covered most of it! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us; if there is anything I have missed out on asking?
Sami: I’d just like to say a few things. We spent 18 hours on zoom just to plan it. And once we were ready with everything we were very nervous to present it to the director. He not only gave us permission for raising funds from our class but also completely supported the entire initiative. He extended his entire support to this cause. Our facilitators were very enthusiastic. Right from the beginning, they guided us and helped us build our strategy. We never faced even a single glitch or instance of negativity. The entire initiative went on so smoothly. When we wanted a room, even before we could ask the director he gave us one. The whole packaging went on so smoothly. We had never measured rice, ragi, dal or salt in our lives before. We thought collecting funds would be a task. But we managed to do it all so effectively only because of the dedication and the emotional connect we had with the purpose of our initiative. Not to forget the contributors who contributed generously and gracefully and made this initiative a successful one.
Samarth: This was a beautiful initiative. Keep doing what you do, we’d Love to feature you again in the future!