Published: 31st March 2020
SFI activists sent vital COVID-19 alerts to migrant labourers as WhatsApp messages in their native tongues
The organisation recently kickstarted a campaign called Mere pyaare changaayi, exclusively for the 'guest labourers' and is helping them avoid fake news and get government circulars out there
Misinformation and disinformation spread like wildfire, especially in times of crisis. This undoubtedly worsens the situation, especially among the unorganised sector. For instance, hundreds of migrant labourers had gathered in Malappuram in Kerala, waiting for a special train, after a piece of fake news was circulated over WhatsApp.
However, to tackle these issues and to ensure that the right information reaches the migrant labourers in a language that they understand, the Students' Federation of India has kickstarted a campaign called Mere pyaare changayi, which translates to 'My dear friend'. Through this campaign, SFI activists translate information to the labourers in their mother tongue. The information is sent as a WhatsApp message to the labourers' numbers, which are collected from their camps. There is also a provision through which a labourer can pick up their phone and call an activist for information. The organisation also started a volunteer-run telephone counselling helpline too recently, exclusively for migrant labourers.
"We started sending them information from the day of the lockdown. We coordinated with the comrades in Assam and West Bengal who helped us translate the message," says V P Sanu, SFI All India President. "They helped us contact these labourers through their families too. We have similar helplines in other states too. We have been receiving the maximum number of calls from Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu," he says, adding that most activists are attending up to 100 calls a day.
Recently in Kerala, thousands of migrants took to the streets of Kottayam demanding transport services to go home. The crowd was dispersed in a few hours. Sanu says that after this happened, the service was intensified by the organisation. "That was when we started counselling services. All of them are SFI activists and qualified counsellors. We currently have it in Bengali and Ahomiya. We'll soon start the service in Hindi soon," he says. "Most of them want to go back home, but that isn't possible right now. This is the least we could do," he adds.