How these three helped stranded workers during lockdown
Rahul Maan, Srihari Yemjala and Sukumar Poojary bring aid to migrant workers
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Right across India, migrant workers leave their home villages to find employment in the big cities. Many work as daily-wage labourers in manufacturing and construction and often live in company dormitories. Mumbai and Delhi attract the greatest number of migrants.
When India announced a nationwide lockdown in March 2020 as a result of Covid-19, there was a huge exodus of migrant workers from the cities. Some made it back home but millions were stranded.
Economic activities came to an abrupt halt. Social security provisions, such as food grain grants, were linked to their permanent addresses in their home locations. The situation of the migrant workers was in many cases desperate.
“These people live hand to mouth,” explains Rahul Maan, Assistant Trade Category Manager, Customer Development, Delhi. “They don’t have savings. A lot of people were not getting any food because of lockdown.”
Rahul joined forces with two of his colleagues in Customer Development, Srihari Yemjala, Trade Marketing Executive and Sukumar Poojary, Senior Demand Planning Executive, both based in Mumbai, united by a determination to help the migrants.
Food aid was clearly a priority. So they set about creating a food bank, starting small and distributing around 300 food parcels a day. Within a couple of weeks, the enterprise had grown and around 3,500 parcels were being distributed daily. Working with other food banks, community kitchens and NGOs, the three identified key congregation areas and temporary camps where people had assembled and made them points of distribution.
Their story is one of efficient organisation and on-the-ground support. Srihari, Sukumar and Rahul volunteered both time and money to help people in need. From the start, they were mindful of the need for Covid protection measures. “Before we distributed food, we had taken the proper safety [measures], like sanitising and masks, and we maintained the proper distancing,” says Srihari.
Their efforts extended beyond food aid to clothing and other items to meet the day-to-day needs of the migrants. And local families living in poverty also benefited from their relief work during Covid.
Heroes can set a good example, Srihari believes, and other members of their Unilever teams were inspired to follow suit and volunteer their time or contribute funds.
Together, the three helped nearly 1,000 families every day. “I believe that giving back to society, especially to those who are in need, is the minimum responsibility we have,” says Sukumar. But it is not just about duty and responsibility. “When you see the smile on people’s faces, it really gives me a lot of joy and a lot of satisfaction,” adds Rahul.