Published: 02nd April 2020
COVID-19: Students from IITs, IIMs collaborate to help stranded workers, migrants hit by lockdown
The group, which has over 700 student volunteers, has launched a toll free helpline where people can call for help and the team would coordinate with NGOs to ensure the requirement is fulfilled
Students from prestigious educational institutions - IITs, NITs and IIMs have come together and launched an initiative called "Sahyog" to aid stranded workers, homeless and migrants amid the lockdown imposed to control the spread of coronavirus. According to the team, there are several NGOs and government agencies which are working to offer help during the lockdown but there was a need to connect people who are in dire need of essentials like medicine, masks and food with the providers.
The group, which has over 700 student volunteers, has launched a toll free helpline where people can call for help and the team would coordinate with NGOs to ensure the requirement is fulfilled. The team has also formed an app with the same name to help people get access to arrangements provided by the nearest government resource centre or a non-profit organisation. According to Vikrant Singh, a PhD scholar at IIT Guwahati, as soon as the lockdown was announced thousands of migrant workers from metropolitan cities working in different parts of the country started the journey back to their native places by walking in the absence of any means of transportation and the essential items.
"Many NGOs and government bodies are coming forward and trying to arrange essentials for them but most of the affected people are not getting access to those arrangements due to lack of information and awareness. We are collecting requirements from the needy ones and are then coordinating with the local administration and NGOs to fulfil the requirement," Singh told PTI.
"So far, we have collaborated with 40 different NGOs who are active in various parts of the country. Currently, we are prioritising migrant workers and old-age people, who are most vulnerable in this pandemic. We are helping in getting basic amenities like food, drinking water, masks, soap, sanitizer, clothes and essential medicines. We know there are many out there who require help. NGOs were unable to locate such people.We have tried to bridge this gap. We are trying to build a common platform for these organisations to work," he added.
The service, which went live, two days back is currently active in three states - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand and has already arranged assistance for over 50 groups. "We plan to take it to other states as well and are reaching out to different colleges for roping in student volunteers in different parts of the country. The volunteers will not be visiting any places themselves due to movement restrictions and social distancing protocols in place, but will coordinate so that help is sent across through partner NGOs wherever needed," said Gaurav Singh from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore.
Singh said besides the toll-free helpline, the user-friendly app allows people to post their queries and their requirements which are then redirected to the nearest government aid centre. People who wish to donate and provide resources can also post their information, he added. Addressing the need to provide verified information during the global pandemic, the team also plans to help the public distinguish between rumours and facts regarding the response to COVID-19.
"A team is busting myths by cross-verifying rumours from sources like the World Health Organisation and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention - the national health agency of the US. We are also creating videos related to COVID-19 in local languages to make people living in remote areas aware of the risks and what they need to do," said IIT student Durgesh, who is also part of the team. According to the union Health Ministry, the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 1,965 in the country on Thursday while the death toll rose to 50," they explained.