Over 160 migrant workers were Thursday ferried back home to Jharkhand from Mumbai on a chartered aircraft arranged by the alumni network of a Bengaluru-based law school, the first instance of a charity flight being used to facilitate the return of distressed people during the lockdown, officials said.
The AirAsia flight carrying 169 migrant workers and five children left the western metropolis at 6.25 am and reached Ranchi, the Jharkhand capital, around 8.25 am, an airline spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the National Law School (NLS) alumni association had taken on lease a 180-seater A320 plane, a first such charter operation by the budget carrier since passenger services resumed in the country.
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"AirAsia India is proud to be a part of this initiative that helps migrant workers, adversely impacted by the lockdown, reach their homes and families.
"We have been working closely with the organisers, alumni of the National Law School, who we understand have independently crowdfunded their efforts to assist and repatriate migrant workers from Mumbai to Ranchi," the official said in a statement.
At Ranchi's Birsa Munda Airport, the migrant workers underwent a medical screening and the administration provided them with food packets, before sending them off to quarantine centres in different districts of Jharkhand in buses.
Expressing gratitude to the alumni association of the law school in Bengaluru, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said, "This is the first time in the country that a plane brought mazdoor back during the lockdown. I appreciate the effort of the Alumni Network of National Law School, Bengaluru."
Shyel Trehan, one of those behind the initiative, said in the statement, "We are happy to have made this very small contribution to addressing a massive travesty. I would like to thank AirAsia for all their support."
"This was a massive group effort with Priya Sharma, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, and the alumni from the National Law School working together," Trehan said.
One of the workers, after completing the formalities at the airport, said he would want to thank the law school alumni network and the state for ensuring his safe return.
"I work as a welder in Mumbai. All of us are happy to return. I would like to thank everybody who facilitated our return," he told reporters.
Soren, on his part, said the state is committed to bringing back all the migrant workers stranded in different corners of the country and in this endeavour, the "government has established communication with the Centre".Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.