LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The COVID-19 pandemic brought sudden shock to the migrant workers of India. Due to a nationwide lockdown, COVID-19 restrictions brought their livelihoods to a complete standstill. With no means to return to their home towns and villages, migrant workers were at the mercy of small government rations. Recognizing the plight of migrant workers in India during the pandemic, Indian actor and celebrity Sonu Sood took it upon himself to help migrants return to their homes. India regards Sood as a hero due to his philanthropic efforts and many people now consider him the “messiah of migrants.”
Impact of India’s Lockdown on Migrant Workers
On March 24, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Modi of India announced a country-wide lockdown to take effect a mere four hours after the announcement. This sudden announcement came as a shock to many citizens and migrant workers. The lockdown had disproportionate impacts on informal workers who make up “more than 90% of the workforce” and consist of a significant number of migrant workers.
Due to the sudden loss of livelihood that came with the lockdown, these migrant workers tried to return to their original homes. However, without their daily wages, many migrant workers could not afford the costs of transportation to return home. Others chose to walk the distance — the media displayed “the images of distress and exodus of workers, clutching their [meager]belongings, often carrying children and elderly on their shoulders and backs and trudging hundreds and thousands of kilometers” in a desperate attempt to return home.
Sonu Sood Takes Action During COVID-19
The heart-wrenching visuals circulating throughout the media touched many hearts. Indian celebrity Sonu Sood decided to take action. Sood decided to help stranded migrants reach their homes by arranging free transportation on “a fleet of private buses” while providing both food and water for the journey. Sood’s transportation efforts “helped more than 15,000 migrant workers” return to their homes. Additionally, he provided food resources and temporary housing “to more than 45,000 other people” struggling during the lockdown.
Besides his work with migrant workers, Sood has also helped people in critical condition due to COVID-19 infections. He arranged airlifts for multiple people whose local hospitals do not have the infrastructure to treat severe cases and complications. He also supplied oxygen cylinders to hospitals in need. Additionally, Sood provided meals to an “entire village in Madhya Pradesh,” the home of “Dance Deewaane” contestant Uday Singh.
Due to his philanthropic efforts, in September 2020, Sood received the SDG Special Humanitarian Action Award from the United Nations Development Programme.
Sood Charity Foundation
Sood decided to found an NGO in order to help more people and make a more wide-scale impact even after the lockdown. The mission statement of the Sood Charity Foundation is to “transform destitute lives by empowering them with the necessities to lead a healthy and productive life.”
So far, the organization has distributed more than four million meals on top of providing food to more than 18,000 families in need. In total, the Sood Charity Foundation has provided transportation to more than 90,000 migrant workers in India. Another focus of the organization is funding ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeries and procedures for those who cannot afford these costs. Additionally, the organization offers various scholarships to financially challenged students.
Even though Sood frequently plays the role of a villain in his movies, his real-life work is no less than a hero’s. Sood’s ongoing work to assist those in need shows his commitment to helping the disadvantaged live a better quality of life.
– Shikha Surupa