Actor Swara Bhasker on helping 3,500 migrant workers reach home amidst lockdown
Amid the lockdown, Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker says she has been busy with the release of her new web series Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video, where she plays the character of Shanoo, an English teacher based in Meerut.
And yet, even while pursuing her passion for acting, Swara has been involved in helping out migrant labourers to go back to their hometowns.
A still from Swara's web series Rasbhari.
Known for her crackling and power-packed performances in movies like Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanna, and Anaarkali of Aarah, the actor is now touted as a do-gooder by thousands of daily wage earners, and migrant labourers, amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Inspired by actor Sonu Sood, as well as a Delhi-based NGO Karwan-E-Mohabbat, Swara kicked off an initiative to not only organise transportation for the distressed migrants but also, provide them with basic necessities like footwear, to make their journey hassle-free.
Actor Swara Bhasker working on ground to arrange transportation facilities for migrant workers.
Like many others, Swara also managed to make her journey back home before the lockdown to stay with her parents in Delhi. That was when she pondered about the hardships and plights of migrant labourers.
“Being able to go back home during times of crisis is a basic need. While I was somehow able to make it to Delhi by road, I started thinking about the individuals who did not have that opportunity. And, that was about the same time I read about Sonu Sood’s drive too. I felt guilty for keeping my hands tied. So, I took the plunge to aid the workers in Delhi get to back to their hometowns in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,” Swara Bhasker tells SocialStory.
With the help of her team, as well as the Delhi government, the actor gathered the required data to identify people who were struggling to go back home. Immediately after, she managed to arrange one-way train and bus tickets for all of them.
Swara distributing footwear to migrant earners.
Further, Swara collaborated with Relaxo, Action Shoes, and other local shoe traders to collect footwear to distribute them to the daily wage earners.
“In the last few months, we were able to help over 1,300 migrants complete their return journeys, and also added to the convenience of more than 3,500 with the distribution of shoes,” she adds.
Will to do good
Swara holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is also known to have done a detailed research study on the anti-nautch movement - an early 20th-century movement to abolish the Devadasi practices.
She says her value system is shaped by her upbringing and education, as her father Chitrapu Uday Bhasker was an Indian naval officer, and her mother Ira Bhasker was a professor of cinema studies.
Actor Swara Bhasker.
“I was born and brought up in a typical setting like many other individuals. I have had a very service-based nurturing. I was a part of many student movements and progressive theatre groups during my days at college, including NK Sharma’s Act One. Therefore, to some extent, I have been influenced by activism and people who fight for justice. And, the thought of being part of a social transformation has always excited me,” the actor shares.
A slew of factories, industries, and businesses shut down their operations, owing to the coronavirus lockdown. Consequently, the migrant earners who had left their hometowns to grab job opportunities in metro cities were left to fend for themselves. Unable to afford groceries and lodging, many started making desperate attempts to walk hundreds of kilometres to get to their native places. According to media reports, around 200 migrant workers were reported to have lost their lives to speeding vehicles on their journey.
While the Indian government took cognisance of the situation and started providing transportation to help the migrant workers in crisis, many opined that the sudden lockdown without proper planning caused the particular disorder.
“The migrant crisis has been burgeoning at an unprecedented scale. A clear notice by the government a few days before the lockdown would have really served the cause. Every endeavour now is more of a reactionary step to repair the damage that has already been done,” Swara says.
Swara Bhasker has been busy with the release of Rasbhari during the lockdown.
As an actor, Swara has starred in multiple spunky and feisty roles – whether it was her performance as Rajkumari Chandrika in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, or as Sakshi Soni in Veere Di Wedding. In 2019, She also launched a production house called ‘Kahaaniwaaley,’ with her brother Ishan Bhasker to support realistic and entertaining cinema.
Earlier this year, the actress got together with producer Aditi Anand, and activists Fahad Ahmad, as well as Mitali Bhasin, to celebrate love and unity in the country by putting together the “India My Valentine” campaign. The event was a huge success with the participation of over 30 artists, who echoed the voices of citizens on various issues troubling the nation.
Currently, Swara is continuing her efforts to bring about a positive change during the pandemic.
“I have been very comfortable during the lockdown. Suddenly, I feel like I have been gifted with a lot of time. I am using this time to read, write, and dub for two of my shows. But, not everyone has such a safety net. This motivated me to do what I am doing. That said, I believe that it is a basic act of humanity to reach out to people during testing times like these,” Swara concludes.