Caring and Sharing during COVID 19
Manipur Migrants in Bengaluru's Safety Net

19th May 2020

 Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru :: May 2020
Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru in May 2020

Bengaluru, India’s garden city has the reputation of being one of India’s most cosmopolitan cities. That’s not surprising, given that the city was initially a hub for large public sector enterprises. Later, IT and education were responsible for significant levels of migration into the city. Among these, the North East migrants account for about 4 lakh people.

Just like other migrants, people from North East India have been severely affected by the lockdown. An almost surreal world where nothing can be taken for granted is the new reality. The ground has literally shifted under everyone’s feet.

Even as those with secure income and livelihoods wonder what the future portends, migrants have to contend with unbelievable pressure. Far from the security of home and living in an unfamiliar environment without ration cards and access to the PDS system they are the most vulnerable.

Missed pay-checks and little disposable income are not available for rent and food. Fortunately, it appears that the state Government, local administration, police, city residents and local NGOs have ensconced its migrants in a caring envelope.

From the Karnataka Government side, a special cell has been dedicated to people from the North East with nodal administrative and police officers. Local police stations facilitate convenient distribution of rations to the needy and have also sprung to the help of distressed persons.

Several Bangalore NGOs have come to the aid of North Easterners. At the forefront is Sunbird Trust, an NGO registered in the city, but working in the North East, primarily in Manipur.

While the Trust sources the rations through its donors, it has partnered with several nodal organisations from the North East states such as Manipuri Diaspora Bangalore (MDB), North East Welfare Association of Karnataka (NEWAK) and North East Solidarity. Working closely together, Sunbird Trust and MDB, an umbrella organisation for all communities from Manipur, have proactively reached out to almost the entire Manipuri migrant population at Bangalore.

Johnny Joseph, from Manipur and Administration in charge of Sunbird Trust mentions that ration kits contributed through Sunbird Trust have been able to reach Manipuri migrants in every nook and corner across the city, it has been because of the meticulous surveying, planning and coordination by the leadership and executives of MDB.

Sajonii Ramai, President MDB, mentions that the task has been daunting at the very least. While ration kits had to be distributed across the metropolis, limited vehicle passes were available. Preparing the beneficiary lists of thousands of people too was time consuming as many had to be filtered out being ineligible or duplicated in various lists.

The distribution process itself had to be painstakingly coordinated. He is grateful to the Bangalore police for helping supervise mass distribution in localities where there were a large number of affected persons.

 Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru :: May 2020
Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru in May 2020

Working together since the beginning of April, Sunbird Trust and MDB have coordinated the distribution of over 30 tons of rations for over 4,000 migrants from Manipur. Beneficiary includes people working in unorganized sectors such as the retail sector, parlours, malls, food courts, restaurants, security, students, butchers etc. at Bangalore.

Veithriene Pao who is a student in Christ College (Deemed to be University) is all praise for how MDB proactively found affected persons like herself and, with the help of Sunbird Trust, was able to bring timely respite when food rations were running low.

In her words, "There is a saying that 'One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well', all the while I have been doing well regardless the problems due to lockdown. All thanks to "Sunbird Trust" for providing me relief packages when I needed the most."

Victor Serto Kom, General Secretary MDB and Potsangbam Omprakash, Advisor MDB representing the Executives Committee of MDB credit the close cooperation between the 25 nodal organisations representing communities from the plains and hills forming part of MDB. They say this is a perfect example of the brotherhood of the Manipur people at a time of crisis.

On 14th May, MDB and its executives creditably performed a huge task of coordinating with nearly 1,300 Manipuris selected for boarding the first relief train from Bangalore to Jiribam. They express their gratitude to Smt. Jacintha Lazarus, IAS, Government of Manipur, Nodal Officer for Karnataka, for her kind facilitation.

Few may be aware that Sunbird Trust, a non-denominational NGO working with the objective of Peace through Education has a large presence in Manipur. In fact, almost the entire Sunbird team of 20 young professionals hailing from all parts of India is based at Sunbird partner schools in remote parts of the state.

The Trust works to foster peace by empowering underprivileged children in North East India through getting them access to education. It does this through child sponsorship and building schools and hostels.

Currently Sunbird Trust has built (or is building) 15 such schools and hostels in North East India out of which 9 are in Manipur. It is sponsoring the education of over 3,300 school children in 53 partner institutions and over 50 undergraduate students, the majority who are from Manipur.

Shyamananda, founder and Principal of Khongjom Standard English School, a partner school of Sunbird Trust, says the Sunbird Trust is performing yeoman service for people of the North East. He calls Sunbird Founder and CEO, Retired Army Col. Christopher Rego, a true friend of Manipur.

He is all praise for service performed by both the MDB and Sunbird Trust teams in putting their entire resources together for the benefit of the needy Manipur people at Bangalore.

 Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru :: May 2020
Ration Distribution for Manipuri Diaspora at Benguluru in May 2020

Retired Army Colonel Christopher Rego who served for nearly four years in Manipur and has been visiting and working in the state since 2012, mentions that Manipur is his second home. It was only natural for the Sunbird Team to spring to the assistance of the Manipur folks in his own home town. He mentions that given the uncertain future, MDB and Sunbird Trust have their task cut out.

Sajonii Ramai, President MDB assures that both organisations will bring all their limited resources to bear to be abreast of the issues that may arise. Both expressed their gratitude to organisations that donated the rations – Prestige Foundation, Azim Premji Foundation, Caring Friends (Mumbai), XLRI Alumni Association, Bangalore Jesuit Education Society, Life Trust, Akshaya Patra and Diya Ghar and among others.

No one can hazard a guess for how long the situation will be prolonged. As so many enterprises are “going under”, the big issue is that even if the lockdown is lifted whether the jobs themselves will be there.

One thing is clear however, the Karnataka government, police, caring residents of Bangalore, NGOs like Sunbird Trust and spirited organisations like MDB have laid out a safety net for their North East Indian brethren to help transcend these difficult times.

MDB Executive Committee
MDB (Manipuri Diaspora Bengaluru)

See a full photo gallery here

* This Press Release was sent to by MDB (Manipuri Diaspora Bengaluru) who can be contacted at manipuridiasporab(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This Press Release was posted on 20 May 2020

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