As coronavirus lockdown forced hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers to take to the path of their homes on foot, a voice echoed – “paidal kyon jaaogey mere dost? (why do you walk friend)” – and an actor who is predominantly known for villainous on-screen performances came out to help them.
Asian News International spoke to Bollywood actor Sonu Sood who has reunited thousands of migrant families during these testing times by arranging safe road travel to their native places.
“I was deeply saddened to see them walking with their little children on foot. These are the people who built our houses, our offices, they have laid the roads and I feel that we should not leave them in such distress,” Sood said while explaining the reason that drove him to take up the initiative.
“I thought that I have to come forward to help them and that is why I personally spoke to the governments, local as well as state, and got the arrangements done,” he added.
Sood, who is known for his roles in hit films like Dabangg, Simmba, and Singh Is Kinng is currently being hailed for arranging hassle-free passage of migrant laborers to their respective homes.
Though overwhelmed with the blessings, the actor says that he will continue working until the last migrant reaches home.
“I get so many blessings and I cannot put my feelings into words. All I can say is that I will always try my best to work on the expectations that people have from me. I will continue working until the last migrant reaches his home,” says Sood adding that the smile on the face of teary-eyed migrants is his biggest award.
Speaking about the funds that go in to arrange the road travel, Sood said that though he started the journey with his close friends and family on his own he is now joined by volunteers who are coming forward to help in different ways.
Sood believes that it is important to take real action instead of just expressing grief over the social media about the grim situation of the underprivileged section of the country.
“I always believe that expressing grief on social media isn’t enough, it is very important to take some action. I don’t say that everyone should come out for help but I feel that God has made me his source for helping them,” the 46-year-old actor says.
“I always believe that at this point these people needed a token of trust, a belief that there is somebody who is there for them,” he further says.
Ever since the country imposed a lockdown to contain coronavirus, central as well as various state governments have pressed train and bus services in action- crisscrossing the country to ensure migrants reach home as many of them stare at shutter-down workplaces.
Several Bollywood celebrities have also come forward to help the needy in various ways. While some chose to donate to funds while staying at their homes, Sood, chose to come out and work on the grassroots.
“Celebrities have always come forward for donations and they have helped in different ways and all of that is worth the appreciation. I don’t say that everyone should come out in the field. I just chose a different way, at the same time everybody is doing their job right,” the Dabangg actor says.
At a time when people have been advised to stay at home and maintain social distance with everyone, Sood is on the road risking his life while arranging bus travels for the needy ones.
Now he has launched a toll-free number – 18001213711 through which one can reach out to Sood’s team for help.
“I was getting a lot of calls… thousands of calls every day. My family and friends were busy collecting the data then we realized we might miss out on a lot of people who we will not be able to approach us. So we decided to open this call centre, it is a toll-free number,” Sood told PTI.
When asked about precautions that he takes while on the field, the actor says “I do go on the roads, on the field for this work and taking precaution is of utmost importance so I do that. I keep safety kits with me always. I often give out the message to the migrants when I see them not wearing masks or taking precautions. I feel giving them small messages about the precautionary measures will spread awareness and we will soon get back to our normal life,” he adds.
The 46-year-old actor ended the interview by sharing a beautiful thought by his mother and urged people to help the underprivileged in the best way possible.
“My mother always says that you are successful only when you are capable of helping somebody. So I feel whatever I could do I could do only with the blessings of my parents. That being said, I want to ask people to help the needy ones in any which way they can,” Sood says.
Pictures of Sood waving at the laborers seated in buses has been winning hearts on the internet since early May.
As coronavirus crisis threw life out of gear, thousands of migrants have been stranded in urban areas with no livelihood and very little to survive to force them to cover the journey to their native places on foot.
Earlier this month, the central government organized safe travel for these migrant laborers to their native places through Shramik special trains.
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