Because we use detained plant kitchens to feed migrants

Namrata Singh, Reeba Zachariah and Udit Prasanna Mukherji | TNN

Mumbai/Kolkata: factories are closed and workers are inactive. What better use could corporations have made of your factory in these unprecedented times, apart from opening them to feed the migrant population and the daily wage earners who have to fend for themselves? Radha Goenka, director of the RPG Foundation, decided to do exactly that.

Since the beginning of last week, the RPG Foundation has been serving pre-cooked meals to migrant workers through the company's staff kitchens at the RPG Group factories in Nagpur, Mumbai, Nashik, Jabalpur, Jaipur and Vadodara. RPG Foundation is distributing 3,500 meals a day collectively from all its factory locations. Other companies such as the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, the Luxmi Group and Merlin The group in West Bengal is also extending a helping hand for the livelihood of migrant workers.

Goenka said: “While on the first front, our health professionals who go to work every day must receive protective equipment, on the second, due to confinement and the economic crisis, migrants do not have food to eat. We take special permits from local authorities to open our factory kitchens to cook and provide food for these workers and others in need.

The permanent blockade, which is part of the Covid-19 containment measures, has forced rural migrants to return to their homes after jobs in the cities were exhausted. This has also left the supply chain for essential products high and dry.

When the thought first occurred to Goenka, she asked for volunteers from the factory workers to introduce themselves and help prepare the meals. Within 24 hours, we had the kitchen operations up and running and began serving meals on Monday, Goenka said, adding that the foundation will continue these efforts whenever necessary.

“Cultural solidarity is essential for companies when it comes to workers. When we asked for volunteers, several of our employees volunteered to continue this project. More importantly, we have trained all of our staff on the importance of maintaining social distance, ”said Goenka.

The Luxmi Group, which owns the iconic Darjeeling Makaibari Tea Garden, has established a quarantine center for migrant workers in the hill districts of West Bengal. Rudra Chatterjee, MD of the Luxmi Group, which is a family business, said he has already obtained the necessary permits from the district administration. We have created isolation rooms for returning migrants with food and shelter for 15 days, Chatterjee said.

Interestingly, the family members of many tea garden workers are employed in different states. “Now they return as their families are left alone in the gardens. So we are organizing this installation, ”said Chatterjee.

The construction sector alone employs 45 million workers, making up a sizeable part of the nation's migrant workforce. The Shapoorji Pallonji Group, which employs more than 70,000 migrant workers at its 430 sites in India, has secured all supplies in the worker camps so that they remain in their respective places and do not need to return home. Food and water are provided in the camps, which have accommodation, medical and recreational facilities. Isolation facilities for special medical care are also created.

(Rustomjee) formed a team (selected members who stayed close to their Virar site) to gather information on workers living in the labor camp and their daily needs. After understanding their demands, Keystone began distributing essential products such as grains, legumes, and vegetables. The real estate developer also distributed soaps and other personal care items and explained the importance of hygiene in this critical situation. The company will also pay the electricity and water costs for the labor camp during this period, said Udhayan Nair, manager of Keystone Realtors.

Merlin Group, a family owned real estate firm, under its CSR arm ‘I Am Kolkata’, is providing foodgrain to local people living below poverty line in areas like Tangra, Rajarhat, Behala, Gopalpur and Jawgacha. “We are also feeding migrant construction workers across various projects at Tollygunge, Dumdum,” said Saket Mohta, founder of ‘I am Kolkata’ and MD of Merlin Group.