Migrants set aside discrimination, donate blood in large numbers in Bengaluru

Published : August 03, 2020 12:31 IST

A migrant worker donating blood at a camp organised at Thubarahalli in Bengaluru. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Shortage of blood in blood banks has become a serious problem since the coronavirus-linked lockdown began in March, with even regular donors reluctant to donate blood because of the fear of contracting the virus. The gradual relaxation of lockdown guidelines since May has not led to a change in people’s outlook. In this situation, in Bengaluru on August 2, a community of migrant workers from West Bengal, often branded as ‘Bangladeshi’ by the administration, came forward to donate blood during a blood donation drive organised by Swaraj Abhiyan and supported by the Lions Blood Bank and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health.

Migrant workers from West Bengal and Assam who speak Bengali and provide low-skilled services live in clusters of shanties in the suburbs of Bengaluru. Even though most of them possess identification documents proving their Indian citizenship, they are often targeted in demolition drives where their dwellings are razed to the ground. In January, for instance, officials of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) demolished 200 shanties in Bellandur where around 500 people lived. Later, when it became clear that these people were Indian citizens and the matter went before the Karnataka High Court, the court pointedly asked the BBMP and the Bengaluru Police, "By looking at the face of a person can one be identified as a Bangladeshi national?"

In the blood donation drive at Thubarahalli in the city, 83 migrant workers from West Bengal donated blood. They are employed as construction workers in the Information Technology (IT) corridor of Whitefield, as support staff at IT companies and as domestic helps in apartment complexes in the area.

Abdul Jabbar Mondal who is from Murshidabad spoke to Frontline after donating blood. "When we heard that there was a blood shortage in Bengaluru, we decided to give something back to the city through this blood donation camp. We are Indian and I hope that through this gesture, people will realise this and stop discriminating against us because we feel hurt when we are called Bangladeshi."

Vinay Kumar, an activist who coordinates blood donation camps in the city, said, "Many people who donated blood today work at apartment complexes as domestic helps. During this pandemic we have seen some apartments issuing blatantly discriminatory orders like prohibiting them from using elevators. Hopefully, with this gesture apartment dwellers will realise that one day if the blood of their domestic help saves their lives, how does it matter if they had touched the elevator button?"