India became alert of novel coronavirus pandemic and started taking preventive measure long after the world was infected massively. By the time Indian Government restricted flight movement late in March, about 17 lakh passengers on international flights alreadylanded in India from various infected countries. None of the passengers were initially tested or advisedtoremain home quarantined. As a result despite the lockdown, the number of infected consistently rose in India.

The Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi called for a people's curfew(Janata Curfew) on 22nd March,2020. He asked the countrymen to clap, beat empty dishes and ring the bell to commemorate the tireless deeds of doctors, nurses and health workers. A large section of the common people celebrated the Janata Curfew as the Prime Minister said with the hope that this will help them combat the deadly virus. But even at that time the Prime Minister was silent aboutannouncing a nationwide lockdown which came in just three days.

Meanwhile, on March 12, 2020, Indian National Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi called on the government to be vigilant about the severity of the Covid-19 infection. But the very next day, the Ministry of Health, Government of India issued a statement stating that India had no reason to be concerned about Covid-19. And the central government has given green signal to organize religious gatherings likeTabligh Jamayat in Delhi's Nizamuddin or millions of pilgrims in the temples of Tirupati, Somnath, Haridwar, Hrishikesh, Puri and Varanasi. The foreign tourists were also roaming freely in different parts of India. The government was sure that Covid-19 was not a problem for India.

On March 14, 2020, a number of foreigners came from abroad to participate in the abligh Jamaatin Delhi with visas granted by the Government of India. Their visas were not revoked when WHO issued an alert for a global pandemic and thousands of foreign tourists traveling to India were not restricted to enter.

We didn't even notice any clarificationfrom the central government about all the foreign tourists who were visiting. In such a time when the Corona infection was rapidly spreading all over the world, the US President's visit to India seemed to be highly unnecessaryand putting our health safety at risk.

In such a situation, people who weretravelling out of their home states for medical treatment or for emergency work did not have any clue that a nationwide lockdown was soon going to be declared. The Indian government did not discuss the issue of shelter, food and medical treatment with the state governments in advance.

Arrangements for the repatriation of millions of migrant workers or guarantees of wages and food at their workplaces have not been taken into account. As a result, millions of people have had to fall into the trap of extreme helplessness.

On March 24, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that a nationwide lockdown would begin at 12 midnight on March 25, 2020. In West Bengal, however, the lockdown was announced by the Chief Minister in advance from 5 pm on March 23, 2020.

As a result of the unplanned lockdown, the countrymen, especially the people trapped outside, are in grave danger.

In our state, before the state government started providing rations and relief, some organizations and people spontaneously started providing food, medical treatment, etc. to the starving people by maintaining physical distance. Many people have done this silently by maintaining the physical distance by thwarting the so-called social distance theory.

Many of these good Samaritans remained uncovered by media. Some have raised objection againstputting out the pictures of food distribution among hungry people. This is a very important issue that has come to our notice. Our friends also have been doing as much as they can in their respective localities.

Many of our friends have distributed food, medicine as well as masks, hand washes, soaps, sanitizers etc. Many have also made and distributed these items by producing them at home.

In the meantime, when the government rations and relief system became largely normal, we wondered how the people stuck outside were doing.

Our acquaintances in the outer states have been telling us their first hand experienceof how the people who have gone for treatment in South India or Mumbai are badly trapped there. This work was first started by our fellow journalist Sukumar Mitra by a single initiative.

After doing this for a week, Sukumar Mitra felt that it was not possible to handle it alone. He formed a WhatsApp group named “People in Distress” with six of his like-minded colleagues.

We have tried to include people from all walks of life in our group. A lot of people, not only from our state, but also from foreign states and abroad, have extended a helping hand to this initiative. The names of each member are there in the annexure at the end of this report.

Eminent social worker, Physician and former chairman of West Bengal Public Service Commission Dr. Debapriya Mallick is a major inspiration of our group. He is more of a friend, philosopher and guide to this groupwith a sense of parental responsibility. Eminent journalist Sukumar Mitra, like the other members of the group, is overseeing with a friendly demeanor. The Young Student of Chemical Engineering Soham Patnaik is the coordinator of this groups from the very beginning.

Prominent teacher of English Mustafa Habib has voluntarily taken over the responsibility of constantly overseeing the work of all departments as well as writing letters at the administrative level. Later Mr. Rahul a school teacher is also helping him in this work.

Chemical Engineer Arnab Bhattacharya, Journalist Anupam Singh Roy, Seshadri Roy, Nilav Roy, Randip Ghosh, Sourendu Manna, Mozaffar Rahman- a group of young workers are working day and night. With the addition of Swapan Mandal, Naveen Sarkar and Somnath Sen, the group's work has gained momentum using modern information technology, starting with the creation of our website.

Friends from outside the state and even from abroad have helped us in many ways. A team of 16 journalists has been instrumental in getting our migrant workers and people stranded outside into West Bengal. We will publish the names of all of them in the attached list.

At the very beginning, we were only concerned about bringing back the people stranded for treatment in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai. Soon our activity begun to speed up with providing free online services and a lot of young peoplejoined us. The problem was that the entry pass could not be obtained if the Exit and Entry passed. At that time, with the help of some journalist friends we were having a dialogue with the police stations situated at borders of the state to bringthe stranded peopleback to their homes. But as the work progresses, the scope of our work extended to many fields. At the same time, the number of our members of the WhatsApp group was increasing in the same pace as the number of assistance seekers. Starting from six members, the number of members of the group soon escalated to 120 now.

The work of "People in distress" (PID) started over the phones of several friends. This continued to serve as a helpline numbers where people could seek assistance to move during lockdown. We have also created an email id to speed up the work i.e., twitter account and our own website- To facilitate the work, five sub-groups have been formed: -PR Group, Office Group, IT Group, Campaign Group, Legal Group. These groups are mainly run by educated unemployed young boys. Among them are students.

Our website was created in collaboration with three friends in our group. They have borne the cost. We were adamant from the outset that we would not serve the needy with any financial support from anyone outside our group.

With the cooperation of all our colleagues, we have been able to stick to that decision. We have not accepted the cooperation of any NGO for our work.

We first formed the WhatsApp group with our acquaintances - "People in distress".The personal phone and WhatsApp numbers of the members of this group continue to serve as our helpline numbers for this group. And that work is still going on. Although there was one person as group admin at first, several others have been added as admins later. As the group work grew Soham Patnaik we had to create five subgroups to facilitate the work. One of these subgroups has a responsible member.

Each group includes, the group coordinator of Our People in Distress, as well as Dr. Devpriya Mallick, teacher Mostafa Habib, journalist Sukumar Mitra. They have helped the groups with necessary advice. However, the members of the group became skilled so quickly that there was no problem in working with them. In addition to this, an dedicated email ID, a Facebook page and a website called have been created to facilitate the work of the group as per the demand of the situation.

Initially we began with helpingonly those who have gone to outer states for medical treatment and were stranded for lockdown. But soon a number of stranded migrant labourers started to contact us asking for help. We took this opportunity to facilitate their return to home. From the beginning we had absolutely no funding to finance the transportation cost or to pay our group members. Instead we had tremendous will power and a bunch of young enthusiastic youthswith tremendous noble spirit. It is entirelyon their enthusiasm that this initiative stood upon. Most of the members of the groups are educated unemployed youth who wanted to do something constructive during lockdown leisure. Initially when they were added in the group, most of them were strangers to each other. But soon they developed a wonderful coordination between themselves under the guidance of the senior journalists and social workers. We believed that money cannot be a constraint to a noble initiative to stand by the migrants workers in plight. Therefore, the WhatsApp group became a communication platform where stranded labourers can seek assistance and report harassment and we forward their appeal to the appropriate government officials. The migrant labourers often find it difficult to move from one state to another. They don’t know where to appeal and how to appeal in order to get a pass to move during lockdown. So our primary job became to collect the information and whereabouts of the workers and pass that onto the district magistrates, police superintendents, local self-governments etc. so that they can rescue them and transport them to their home state. For this purpose we have developed a web page where we put up a form seeking the details from the workers liketheir permanent addresses, phone numbers and the exact location where they are stranded and since when etc. Once anyone filled up this form, our IT group started to do their research on the police stations under which they are struck, the contact numbers of the concerned District Magistrates or Panchayet Pradhans etc. Thus whenever any incident of stranded labourers is reported to us from direct or indirect sourcewe write to the respective police station of both the area to facilitate their homecoming. As soon as we are informed about their location we ask the police departments to issue a pass which would help them to pass through different state boundaries while they are travelling by bus. For the labourers who want to travel by trains, we inform them about the scheduled time of the departure and ask them to arrange necessary documents to be produced at the station.So far we have been able to rescue at least 7000 migrant labourers struck in the states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Hariyana, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Migrants workers of the following districts of West Bengal have been benefitted by our initiative: Coach Behar, Darjeeling, Alipurduar, Hoogly, Murshidabad, Purba Bardhaman, Paschim Bardhaman, Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, Purulia, Birbhum. Our volunteers have even maintained contact with the migrant labourers who are kept quarantined in different centers of West Bengal. With our assistance about 40,000 people have been directly or indirectly benefitted.

In this fight we knew that the more we can expand our network the more we will be able to find a way out for the workers. Therefore our goal was to find out other possible network in the area where the labors are stranded. Apart from contacting the concerned government officials of the state governments where the labours were stranded, we also tried to find out our peer organizations in the states where they are stuck in so that they can facilitate their return. For example a group of people from West Bengal went to Chennai for work and they got stuck when the lockdown was announced. When they appealed to us to rescue them we were trying to look into other peer organization working with the similar social motto. Then we came to know about the Bengali Association of Chennai and upon contacting them they responded to our request at once and arranged a couple of buses for the workers. In another instance as there were several journalists in our group we took the opportunity of utilizing a wide network of journalists. This helped us to keep a track on the labourers and look after their problems on different points of their journey. The journalist network also enabled us to redress our problems by filing complaints in the local police stations. Thus our effort was supported by a few other organizations and networks which have extended us tremendous generosity to make the homecoming swifter for the migrant labourers.

We have faced a lot of problem while facilitating the transportation of the labours during lockdown. While we have got active cooperation from some state governments, others have showed grave negligence to our appeal and refused to cooperate. States like Telengana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Assam, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are among the few states which have proven to be very insensitive to the cause of migrant labourers. We have even found that states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have discriminated against the muslim migrant workers. We have also observed that the central government in general has taken the issues of migrant workers in a very light manner. Our repeated appeal to set up langars (free food circulation centers) and supply of free drinking water beside the highways has fallen into deaf ears. After being stranded for more than one month the migrant workers were exhausted of money. All of their savings has goneafter paying the high rent in big cities and buying food while they had no income whatsoever. Under such circumstance when batches of them started to walk home covering thousands of kilometers, they were in much need of facilities like accommodation for night, food, drinking water and first aid. But in spite of our repeated attempt to bring the issue to the notice of the central government there was absolutely no initiative on their part.

The Shramik Special Trains announced by the central government appeared to be a good gesture although it was delayed. But later it did not prove to be much beneficial for the workers for varied reasons. Firstly, the train service was not free which was very necessary for the workers who are out work for more than two months. Secondly, only a few numbers of trains were coming from different cities to Bengal due to inadequate train service. As a result the workers had to opt for break journey via Delhi which is a lot more expensive. On 22nd June a group of 67 workers wanted to return to Bengal from Chennai and they had no other way but to come via Delhi. This cost them about five thousand rupees which is insanely higher than the normal train fare. Due to this extra fare that they had to pay, they are often not able to buy food in their journey.

Another problem that we have faced in our drive to assist needy people with health service is that most of the blood banks in west Bengal are dry. The west Bengal Police have donated 2600 units of blood to the blood bank but still it is less than what is needed. Thalassemia patients are in need of fresh donors and the donors are frightened that if they go to donate blood they might contract coronavirus.

So far there are innumerable appeals that have come to us from different states of India. Both the workers from Bengal who are stranded in other states and workers of other states who are stranded in Bengal or other states have appealed to us seeking assistance. We have been able to give a solution to most of the appeals while a few remained unsolved due to the negligence of some state governments despite our best efforts. We, along with our PR group and IT group acted as fast as possible to redress any complaints came to us. Following is the account of what we have been able to do:

On May 25 some migrant workers staying in a quarantined center of Gopalnagar, Bongaon informed us that there were fans in their center and they were suffering from tremendous heat of summer. Upon getting their application we wrote at once to the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, DM of Nort 24 Pgs, SP of Bongaon and DG of West Bengal Police. The government officials took a very positive initiative and immediately after that, fans were installed in that quarantined centers. On June 1 we wrote to the Chief Secretary and DGP about the problems of distressed migrant labourers who found it difficult to entry through the border of West Bengal from outer states because they failed to collect their entry passes from website due to technical problem. We referred to the press conference of the honable Chief Minister who directed the police to help those who don’t have a entry pass. After our appeal the border movement became much easier for the migrant workers.

On June 1, about 49 migrant workers of WB, UP, Jharkhand and Assam who were stranded in Karnataka sought our assistance to arrange for their transportation. At once we forwarded their appeal to the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Copies were also sent to the Chief Ministers and Labour Commissioners of WB, UP, Jharkhand and Assam. Two of our representative in Karnataka visited the workers in Yasawantapur and they found that the labour contractor had not been paying their wages for four months. Only a few of them could afford to buy a train tickets to return home and most of them had no money. They also did not have en E-pass because they did not know how to avail it from online. After our petition the government of their home states arranged for their return and their dues also have been paid by the contractor.

On May 17, we wrote to renowned social activist Medha Patekar inviting her solidarity to our campaign. We asked her to stand by our demandsand request Railway Minister Piyush Goyel to increase the number of Shramik Special Trains.

In the last week of May some workers from west Bengal who were stranded in Gujarat made some grave complaints to us. They said that they were not able to get an exit pass to come out of Gujarat as the police was denying them any pass. Later we came to know that the police had a nexus with the hoteliers who were benefitting by imposing high rent upon the workers during lockdown. The workers also informed us that the police was denying them to give any information about the Shramik Special trains. We then wrote about the extreme non-cooperative and irresponsible fashion of the Gujarat Police to both the Chief Minister and Chief Secretaries of Gujarat and West Bengal. On May 17 about 7000 workers of west Bengal who are stranded in Rajkot, Gujarat informed us that they were running out of any resource to live in Gujarat and they need to be immediately sent back to Bengal. Both the Gujarat police and concerned government officials were extremely apathetic to their cause despite they made repeated appeal. We forwarded their appeal to the DGP of west Bengal, Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Gujarat and then the biggest success of PID followed. We have been finally able to arrange for safe return of the 7000 stranded workers with the help of Gujarat and west Bengal government.

In Kodad, Telengana we received similar complaints from the workers that police were refusing to give them exit pass. We immediately forwarded their appeal to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Telengana. The Telengana government responded with positive reply and promised us that they going to take effort to ensure their safe return. Within a few days the workers got their exit pass and boarded train from Telengana to return safely to West Bengal.

From the Chapra police station in Nadia district another shocking news came to us in the last week of May. In the backdrop of coronavirus crisis when it was extremely difficult to move from one state to other, a brick kiln owner in Nadia district disowned a group of 7 workers from Bihar. The group, lacking any capacity to survive in a foreign state with their wages due for months, started to walk all the way to Bihar from West Bengal. Soon the matter was brought to our notice by our journalist network and we informed the matter to the DG, Chief Secretary and Nodal Officer. In a positive gesture from west Bengal police they have taken the responsibility of the workers and ensured that they reach their home safely. Yet another success boosted our spirit for work. A group of 25 workers from West Bengal were stranded in Maharastra and one of them called Rakesh Mondal informed us that the bus owners were claiming as much as 2 lakh rupees to arrange a bus to west Bengal. They were maintaining contact with the local police station and wanted to know about the train schedules to west Bengal. By searching it in the internet our IT team has informed them about the needful.

Sandip Malakar along with 25 other workers from Dhantala, Nadia, West Bengal contacted us for seeking assistance to return from Surat, Gujarat. Our IT team advised them to register their names as migrant workers under local police station. In the meantime, our PR team wrote a letter to the DM informing him about the details of the stranded migrant workers.

On June 7, six migrant workers from Purba Medinipur, West Bengal contacted us seeking aid to rescue them from the Kottyam district of Kerala. They wanted to board Shramik Special train from Kerala but didn’t know how to get their tickets and other formalities to board the train. We forwarded their appeal to the Chief Minister of Kerala. Immediately we got positive response from the CM’s office and they made necessary arrangements to send the workers to West Bengal by train. On June 12, a worker named Bishnu Chutiya stranded in Coimbatore for months was traveling by train to Assam via Delhi. He met with an undesirable incident when his co-passengers pushed him out of the train out of a minor dispute. The railway police did his preliminary treatment in railway hospital and sent him back to Howrah. But Bishnu only had a photo of the screenshot of his e-ticket which was invalid for travelling in train. Bishnu could only speak his tribal language and didn’t know Hindi, English or Bengali. So it was very difficult to have a conversation with him. However two of our correspondents reached Sealdah station to assist Bishnu to board the train to Assam. With their help he finally boarded the train and reached to Assam. In the mid way in Alipurduar where he was supposed to change the train, one of our correspondents arranged a lodge for his night stay. We also informed the matter to the Assam government but with no result. On June 15 a person named Debashis Pal, resident of Bhatpara, North 24 pgs, came to us with an appeal to arrange for a vehicle to take him to a nearby quarantine centre because he has been tested positive. We forwarded his appeal to the Health Secretary of West Bengal and as per his request he was transferred to the quarantined center by government.

Our entire work to help distressed people is based on a Whats App group which grew larger consistently. We neither have the financial capacity to sponsor the transportation of the workers by bus or train, nor did we have any paid employees in our institution. We made thorough research about the respective police station under which the workers were stranded and appealed to the respective police department and nodal officer by forwarding the appeal of the workers. Therefore it was upon the effective measure of the police and the policy of the respective state governments that our success depended upon. Therefore in a few respect we couldn’t change the situation because there were no response from the central government. Despite our repeated appeal to increase the number of the Shramik Special Trains and setting up of community kitchens and drinking water taps, it is the apathetic nature of the central government that these demands had not been made. Had these demands been made, the distress of the migrant labourers could have been reduced much more. Not to mention the apathetic attitude of a few state governments alongside the central government posed constraint against our initiative.

We have been able to successfully rescue about 40,000 migrant labourers so far from different states of India. For the past one month we have been able to extend our assistance with 100 per cent success to all the distressed people who approached to us.

We have observed the following facts during the course of our activities:
 • The plight of the migrants workers would have been dealt in a better way if the government could warn the people at least two weeks before announcing the lockdown.

 • The issues of the migrant workers have been dealt with in an extremely negligible manner by the central government than other sector of the society. Even providing right information about the train schedule could have been more helpful for the migrant labourers who were vehemently looking for coming back to home.

 • Absolutely no social security of the unorganized sector workers has made the condition worse. Without a single day of work it is impossible for the migrant labourers to survive in outer state.

 • By not arranging the community kitchen, drinking water and first aid facility for the thousands of the migrants workers who were walking back to home, the government has denied the basic right of living to the migrant workers.

 • More frequent trains and waiving train fare would have been more helpful and could have saved the lives of migrant workers who have died during their long walk to home.

In future we are planning to work on the peoples’ health service. We have already begun to give advice and facilitating blood collection from blood banks to the distressed people like Thalasamia patients, operation patients, cancer patients. The idea of how we can provide free health care to the needy is gaining momentum. To this end, we have decided to form a separate group.

"People In Distress"(PID). The group is headed by Dr. Debapriya Mallick, Ex Chairman, West Bengal Public Service Commission and eminent physician. Group monitoring by eminent Journalist Sukumar Mitra.

"People in Distress" has ventured to extend its benevolent hand to the underprivileged class through a project PID SAHAS (People In Distress Support for Accessing Health Amenities for Survival). We have also created PID CORONA AWARENESS TEAM to spread awareness about the importance of time. In addition to the Online Medical Team, the team is led by two patients (Debashis Paul and Partha Paul) who have recovered from corona disease.

Service of PID SAHAS is being provided completely free of cost since May, 2020. We are working on this service in compliance with the latest Telemedicine Guidelines of the Government of India. And we will not be able to pay any remuneration or honorarium for this Medical Service to any perosn. Our Free of Cost Telemedicine service is provided by 19 doctors in the state. List of Respected Doctors given in below:-

1. Dr. Debapriya Mallick
2. Prof. Dr. Gita Ganguly Mukherjee
3. Dr. Bhabani Prasad Sahoo
4.Dr. Dipankar Bannerjee
5.Dr. Malati Tudu
6.Dr. Hiralal Konar
7.Dr. Shaktirupa Chakraborty
8.Dr. Sammathonath Ghosh
9.Dr. Biplab Ghosh
10. Dr. Arindam Roy
11. Dr Samir Choudhury
12. Dr. A. Hossain
13. Dr. Arun Gan
14. Dr. Debashmita Mitra Ghosh
15. Dr. Abhishek Dan
16. Dr. Arani Das
17. Dr. Sayantani Dey Dan
18. Dr. Swaraj Bej
19. Dr. Hiralal Samanta

Sukumar Mitra, Swapan Mondal, Mojaffar Rahaman, Utpal Bera, Shesadri Roy,Anupam Singha Roy, Saifuddin Mondal, Soham Pattanayak, Sk. Sarfraj Hossain, Mominur Rahaman, Debashis Paul, Partha Paul, Dipankar Nag, Mithun Chakraborty, Sanchayan Chakraborty.

We did not raise any funds or donations for this work. Our purpose was to find out if anything could be done without money. Initially we succeeded in that task. The tireless morale of all our colleagues has helped us move our work forward.

We think that the state government or the central government gives financial help to all those clubs or NGOs/CBOs. Instruct them to get involved in awareness work on corona. Then the social barrier environment and selfishness that is being created around Corona can be tackled. If they don’t do this the government should stop their financial aid. Many organizations are working on their own initiative to compile a list of those who need to expand their work at the social level if the government thinks it is necessary to help them. Emphasis should be placed on providing medical equipment that is primarily needed rather than financial aid for Corona patients.

1. Chief Minister, Govt. of West Bengal
2. Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
3. Principal Secretary Health, Govt. of West Bengal
4. Director of Health Services, Govt. of West Bengal
5. Nodal Officer, Migrant Labour issues
6. DGP, West Bengal
7. Kolkata Police Commissioner
8. General and Police Administration of West Bengal.
9. Department of Health, Govt. of West Bengal
10. All Distric Magistrates
11. All Superintendant of Police and Police Commissionarate
12. Dotors
13. Journalists
14. Advocates
15. NGOs/CBOs.
16. Bengali Association, Chennai
17. Some Trade Union and Political activists out side West Bengal.
18. Dr. Nilanjan Sengupta
19. Achintya Kumar Laha, Coffee House Welfare Society, Kolkata for Blood Support.
20. Mr. Ashim Gan, Executive Member All India Medical Lab. Technician Association.
21. Dr. Suparna Ganguly, Sr. Fellow, SIPRD, Kalyani
22. Shaktiman Ghosh, National Hawker Federation
23. Joy Chakraborty
24. Rajkumar Laskar
25. Samrat Kar
26. Friends and Friends of our Friends

Telecphonic conference/ Video Conference./Twitter/ Facebook Page / Facebook Live/Webniar Meetings/ Whats App Groups/ web portal/ press release/ poster/ Campaign in social media/Mainstream Media.

*Report Compiled by Sukumar Mitra, Ritwik Bhushan Bagchi, Mostofa Habib

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