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NLS lawyers, partners, Tata GC, NGOs bring 174 Mumbai migrants home to Jharkhand by charter flight

Air Asia demonstrates social distancing
Air Asia demonstrates social distancing

NLSIU Bangalore alumni have donated money and organised the air travel home of 174 migrants stuck in Mumbai due to the Covid-19 lockdown, reported LiveLaw.

The initiative, which was not part of any formal alumni association but an informal effort only open to alumni, had been (and continues to be) widely covered in the national media since yesterday, with the chief minister (CM) of Jharkhand having reached out to thank the alumni, according to the Times of India.

As of yesterday, around 80 alumni had raised around Rs 12 lakh as of yesterday. The donor list, which we have seen, includes a few big shot partners from law firms, including one mid-size law firm, as well as former lawyers, advocates and others. The efforts were spearheaded by such former NLS students as Shyel Trehan (batch of 2000) and Priyanka Raman, with assistance from NGOs as well as IIT-Bombay social sciences PhD scholar Priya Sharma.

Raman told India Today: “We knew that there were many migrants in the city who were living in hard conditions and were desperate to leave for their home town. Our activist association had the list of migrants and since train services have become an issue, we decided to send them by air. The entire fund for air fare and transportation was arranged by the alumni association.”

According to a more in-depth report on the practical aspects of the operation by Bar & Bench, Tata Group general counsel (GC) Shuva Mandal was instrumental in the suggestion for the funds being used for travel by plane, rather than by bus.

The Tatas’ top lawyer’s involvement has presumably also helped logistically, in that flights these days can be hard to come by (the first scheduled flight they had booked had in fact been cancelled) and Air Asia, the carrier that leased a plane for the efforts and was used to ferry the workers home, is part of the Tata empire.

Indeed, the PR value alone for Air Asia would (or should) have made it an easy ask to convince the Air Asia powers-that-be to assist with the project (and considering that many airlines must be teetering on the brinks of bankruptcy right now, it’s also understandable that it was lawyers and not Air Asia that footed the bill).

One anonymous commenter wrote on Legally India that planes were actually not a lot more expensive than equivalent transport by bus for such a long journey, in this case:

As someone who contributed towards the Air Asia flight, wanted to clarify a few things:

  • The per person cost if a bus were to be used worked out to INR 5,000. Flight cost per person came to INR 5,900. For a marginal increase in cost, the time saved and the hardships mitigated were enormous.
  • A single bus would only fit ~50 passengers while a plane could carry upto 180 passengers.
  • As has been mentioned in other media outlets, the connectivity between Mumbai and Jharkhand is poor. Hence this route was chosen.

Hope this clarifies a few things. NLS Alumni are not delusional to pour money into a useless PR gimmick. This is a mode that works both for the cost and time savings and we would do it with or without the PR. Here’s hoping we can send more such flights to save those who sustained us.

That works out to around Rs 10 lakh.

Millions of domestic economic migrants are estimated to have been affected by the lockdown, with lakhs having been getting food from the government, and many eager to return home.

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