‘Dream come true’, say migrants as they deboard special flight at Ranchi airport
Shankar Mandal, a migrant labourer who worked as tiles fitter in Mumbai, was nervous on Thursday morning, as he was to catch a flight for the first time in his life from Mumbai airport, which he never thought would be possible even in his wildest dream.
Mandal, a resident of Hazraribag road in Jharkhand, boarded the flight along with his family and 10 other relatives from Mumbai for Birsa Munda airport Ranchi. The special chartered relief flight of Air Asia, carrying 174 migrant workers, landed at Ranchi airport at 8.20am on Thursday.
“I saw flight flying over my head many a time in Mumbai. But, I never thought that I would be an air passenger ever, as I am a migrant worker and I know my limit. I would like to thank the persons who arranged this for us. They appeared as God for us, as we had exhausted all our savings in the lockdown,” Mandal said.
“Sky seemed like heaven”
From Mandal’s wife Rita Devi , it was a dream come true moment. “I was scared when the flight started taking off. I felt similar experience while landing. It was a unique experience, as the sky seemed like heaven,” she said.
This was the first flight which carried migrant workers to Jharkhand. The state saw arrival of more than 3.5 lakh migrant workers by special trains, buses and individual vehicles since May 1.
Boarding a flight was first experience for most of the migrant workers, who were working as carpenter, construction labourer, auto driver, car cleaner, tiles fitter, fitter, electrical mechanic, furniture maker and tailor in Mumbai. It was a struggle surviving in the city with no money to eat after the lockdown, the migrants said.
“After one month of lockdown, we started facing crisis of even food. We thought to return to Jharkhand but had no option to come,” said Aslam Ansari, who deboarded the flight in Ranchi with his wife and four kids. Aslam Ansari, a resident of Nawada in Jharkhand’s Giridih district, worked as a tailor in Mumbai and was out of job since March 22.
“Thought of walking to Jharkhand along with wife and kids”
“Once, we thought to return home walking along with the family members. In the meantime, one of my friends said that a flight for migrant workers is leaving for Jharkhand. Then, I filled a form for the same and got a call for the journey,” Ansari said.
The flight journey was possible by the effort of a group of alumni of National Law School, Bengaluru, who raised funds for the journey. The six alumni Suhaan Mukerji, Priyanka Roy, Arkaja Singh, Shyel Trehan, Pria Sharma and Shuva Mandal played a crucial role to make this happen.
“Initially, we were trying for buses to send the migrant workers. But, when we compared the cost, we found flight cost is not much higher than the bus. The total cost was around Rs 11 lakh. Then, we decided to send them by flight and started raising fund,” said Mukerji, a Delhi based lawyer, over a phone call.
When asked why they chose Jharkhand migrant workers, Mukerji said, “We came to know that 45 people from Jharkhand are stuck in Mumbai. We got 45 seats in regular flight. Unfortunately, the flight got cancelled. We, then, decided let’s take full aircraft and moved the permission for relief flight so the restriction of schedule flight we can overcome. This way, we sent full plane.”
“We had sought support for the migrant workers after their landing in Ranchi. Jharkhand CM called me and said he would monitor the things. The government there arranged buses for the workers for various destinations,” Mukerji added.