Armed with a laptop and a mobile hotspot, an IT professional from Birbhum claims to have helped over one lakh migrant workers during the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
Sadekul Islam, 28, who works in an IT firm in Calcutta, had to return home in Birbhum’s Muraroi during the lockdown.
With help from friends Mohammed Noor Alam and Nasiruddin Ansari in Muraroi, Sadekul set up a network of contacts — mainly phone numbers and email ids of government officials — on his laptop that he said helped over 7,000 workers return home in Birbhum and over a lakh stranded workers get food.
Sadekul said the idea of forming a database of officials came to him when he saw villagers thronging post offices and Aadhaar centres last year in the wake of the amended citizenship law to rectify their documents. “I thought it would be simpler if people knew whom to contact,” he said. His expanding database of officials proved helpful when Covid-19 struck.
From April, Sadekul and his friends started identifying stranded workers from their area and contacting government officials for help.
Sadekul said his contacts ranged from the “panchayat to the PMO”. “The system works,” he said. “Kerala officials were the most helpful.”
Worker Saribul Sheikh, home in Muraroi, said Sadekul arranged food for him and four others when they were “virtually starving in Chennai”.
Muraroi is located along the Birbhum-Murshidabad-Jharkhand border. Many youths work as construction labourers and masons in states such as Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
“We liaised with officials in Bengal as well as in states where we knew youths from Muraroi were stranded. We gathered information on other places where youths were stranded with insufficient food and contacted officials there,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked out well for everyone.”
Minakshi Bhattacharya, a PhD research scholar from Santiniketan’s Visva-Bharati, was so impressed by Sadekul’s “ingenuity” that she contacted him this week for a study of his initiative.
Sadekul added that times had changed. “One can contact the whole world sitting at home. Only thing is one needs to know whom to call.”