Actor Sonu Sood on Friday came to the rescue of 167 migrants stuck in Kerala by arranging a special chartered flight to help them reach their home in Odisha.
The group, comprising on 147 women and 20 men, were airlifted by an Air Asia chartered flight from Kochi to the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar.
"When I decided to come forward in support of these migrant workers who have been stranded, all that I had in my mind was how I can help reunite them with their families and homes," Sonu said in a statement.
The Bollywood star thanked the national carrier for its "immediate response and interest in supporting this endeavour".
"AirAsia India has been very appreciative that this Umeed Ki Udan may be the first flight for many of them. The Allstars of AirAsia who have been part of this journey have been true Covid warriors and have done everything possible to make the guests on board comfortable," Sonu added.
Anup Manjeshwar, Head, Sales & Distribution, AirAsia India, hailed the actor for starting the noble cause of helping the migrants.
"Mr Sood's compassion and empathy with the plight of migrant workers has been inspiring and it has been a pleasure working with him to facilitate this fantastic initiative and give wings to the dreams of 147 women and 20 men who work with a clothing and stitching firm on today's flight," he added.
Rajya Sabha MP Amar Patnaik took to Twitter to thank Sood for his "noble efforts".
"@SonuSood Ji, your helping the Odia girls to return safely from Kerala is commendable. Kudos to your noble efforts. It's incredible to see how you are helping the needy reach their homes safely. More strength to you," Patnaik wrote on Twitter.
Amid the nationwide lockdown, the Odia women, most of whom were engaged in stitching and embroidery work in the textile sector in Kerala, had been trying to return for last several weeks and finally their plight was posted by someone on Twitter which led to Sood's help.
Initially, it was proposed to bring back the young women by bus or train but Sood offered to send them in a special plane, said an airline official.
The special flight carrying them from Kochi airport landed at Bhubaneswar airport on Friday, said an official.
"We are extremely thankful to Sonu Sood for making arrangements for our return to Odisha. We will be able to meet our family members after so many months," said one of the migrants.
As all the returnees hailed from Kendrapara, the state government had made adequate arrangements for their journey to the coastal district.
Kendrapara Collector Samarth Verma said that the district administration had sent four buses to pick up the women from the Bhubaneswar airport. The returnees were offered food, water and other necessities and travelled to Kendrapara by maintaining social distancing.
All of them have been placed in institutional quarantine. They will be under mandatory quarantine for seven days at the government-run facilities at the district headquarters town, he said.
Thereafter, they will have to be in home quarantine for another seven days, Verma added.
Sonu and his friend Neeti Goel have won hearts with their 'Ghar Bhejo' initiative.
The actor facilitated several buses for workers stuck in Mumbai due to the coronavirus-forced nationwide lockdown. The actor has transported workers to far off states such as Karnataka, Bihar, Jharkhand and UP.
Recently, he launched a toll free helpline to help migrants reaching their home.