Let There Be Light

From a General Store Owner to being the Messiah of Indian migrant workers

Ranchi: On April 14, 2018, 10 migrant workers from India got stuck in Malaysia, sent an SOS to WhatsApp group meant for the migrant workers community, informing that they are being treated as bonded labours by the Malaysian Company that has hired them.  The company had not just seized their passports but was also paying them 500 Ringit instead of the promised 1500 Ringit. To make matter worse was the fact that the migrants who wanted to return back to India, had no money on them and were supposed to pay a fine as they were sent to Malaysia on Visit Visa and it has been three months now staying there.

However, within a week of posting an SOS in the WhatsApp group, the company was not just returned their passports but also had them sent to the Indian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where the fine imposed on them was waived off, by the Malaysian government. All were done by the initiation of the group. And there was no bureaucrat of politicians directly involved in the process.

And this is not the only case in which, this group played a key role in getting back migrant workers. Only a fortnight back, about 44 migrant workers (Nine from Jharkhand and 35 from West Bengal) were rescued back to India through the same WhatsApp group.

Meet Sikandar Ali, the Good Samaritan, he has been silently helping hundreds of migrant workers return back to India from abroad. It doesn’t matter if the worker has been cheated or is dead. He is there to help them. Adding on to his list is the funds that he collects for the orphans of the migrant workers who die abroad.

Sikandar is neither an official of the Ministry of External Affairs nor a politician nor a well placed bureaucrat who has been authorized to save the migrant worker. On the contrary, he is a simple political science graduate, running a general store in Giridih’s Bagoder district. And he has been on a mission since 2015 to help migrant workers. Sikandar, often uses social media to share these information with both regional and national media operating in Jharkhand.

With the number of people Sikandar has helped in bringing back home, has made him a name to reckon with. Today, whenever any migrant from Jharkhand and Bengal area face problem outside India they send an SOS to him instead of approaching any official or political leader.

“I come from an area a lot of people choose to work abroad with the dream of carving out a better life. Most of them are uneducated and belong to labour category. Sometimes, they get cheated even before going abroad and sometime after reaching, while some die after working on international. And in all these situations, they have to face a lot of difficulties,” informed Sikandar to eNewsroom.

The 36-year-old social activist further maintained that he had created a WhatsApp group for migrant workers, where all they need to do is send a message when in distress. Following which he visits the family to get all the details and shares with the journalists to report the news, so that the issue gets highlighted.

The group members include journalists, politicians, social activists, teacher, locals, and NRIs.

“However, in our first attempt to help bring 38 workers from Malaysia, we had failed. It was in 2015. But soon, in 2016, we managed to save 34 workers. They had been jailed, but we managed to get them released and return back to India,” he recalled.

Last year, Sikandar kept following up with the Saudi Arabian official to get back Nunuchand Mahto’s dead body, and only after seven months after his death, his body returned. Later he collected almost Rs 2 lakhs through the group for the welfare of Mahto’s children. To make things easier, he maintains complete transparency when it comes to donations, he makes it a point to share the details with the group members on a daily basis.

Recently, he had even been felicitated for his work at an award function in Mumbai, which has Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Guest.

Former Bagoder MLA Vinod Singh, who too has helped in bringing back migrant workers, had a word of praise for Sikandar and his friend Ajay Kumar Mahto, a government school teacher, who also works for the education of children of migrant workers. “They have been doing great work together and have saved several migrant workers. Their commitment for the cause is commendable,” said the former MLA.

“In cases which happen in Malaysia, one Bikas Mahto, who is from Hazaribagh, works in Malaysia, also helps workers there,” Sikadar pointed out.

The social activist’s works also make a point that how WhatsApp, a messenger can connect people for a greater cause, and not spreading hate among communities, as it is prevalent nowadays.


Shahnawaz Akhtar

is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

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