Happy birthday, Sonu Sood: Bollywood’s quintessential villain-turned-messiah for the poor

As hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers made their way home during last year’s Covid-induced lockdown, they looked to the country’s political establishment to come forward to alleviate their troubles and ensure their travel home. The man that came forward was not part of the political establishment but to these migrant workers, who trekked thousands of kilometres to their ancestral home from their places of work, Sonu Sood was no less than a saviour.

While he started off by arranging return journeys for the lone migrant worker who contacted him on Twitter, Sood soon became a messiah for the ignored masses as he hired buses en masse to take them to their villages and towns. On his 48th birthday, we take a look at some of the other initiatives the quintessential Bollywood villain has taken during the Covid-led disruption.

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Welcomed health workers to his hotel

After the Centre issued a nationwide lockdown order in March, 2020, Sood opened the doors of his hotel in Juhu to healthcare workers, who were not only at a high risk of contracting the virus but also faced social stigma. He said it was his honour to do his bit for the healthcare workers, who were working night and day to save lives.

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Shakti Annadanam

With hundreds of thousands losing their jobs during the lockdown, leading to food insecurity, Sood launched Shakti Annadanam with the aim of offering food to 45,000 people in Mumbai every day.

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Helping migrant labourers

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sood and his team ensured that the daily-wage workers and migrant labourers who contacted him were not forced to walk home and arranged for their safe return. He also got in touch with state governments to coordinate their return, uniting families all across the country.

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Employment

Sood started the Pravasi Rojgar programme to provide employment and accommodation to migrant workers.

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Student scholarships

Sood also announced full scholarship programmes for students, named after his mother, Prof Saroj Sood. He said financial difficulties should not bar students from achieving their potential.

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Support for IAS aspirants

Sood has also pledged support to IAS aspirants through another scholarship programme.

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Free e-rickshaws

Sood also helped people become self-reliant, providing e-rickshaws that would allow daily-wage earners to start small businesses.

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Mobile phones to students

As learning moved online during the lockdown, Sood gave away mobile phones to students and said education would no longer be locked down.

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Bringing back students

Sood also facilitated the return of Indian students in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Russia, and The Philippines by arranging for a charter flight.

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Facilitating hospital beds and oxygen

During the second Covid-19 wave, Sood provided hospital beds, oxygen and medicines to those in need.

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Oxygen drive

The actor also started a drive to provide oxygen concentrators during the second wave when India was crippled by a shortage of medical oxygen.

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