Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan on Wednesday arranged four special flights to send about 700 migrants from Mumbai, Maharashtra, to their homes in Uttar Pradesh.
Two more flights with migrant workers will take off on Thursday, said sources close to Mr Bachchan, adding he wanted to book a train for the migrants but the logistics did not work out.
The flights were "organised" on Mr Bachchan's directive by his close aide Rajesh Yadav, managing director of his home production company AB Corp Ltd.
The flights took off from Mumbai for Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Varanasi in UP on Wednesday morning with 180 passengers in each, the sources said.
Mr Yadav, on Mr Bachchan's behalf, had also recently flagged off 10 buses for 300 migrants to reach their villages in Lucknow, Allahabad, Bhadohi and other places in Uttar Pradesh. This was done in partnership with the dargahs in Mahim and the Haji Ali, a statement said.
After landing at Allahabad airport from Mumbai in a special IndiGo flight, an overwhelmed Korawan village native Ghulam Hassan thanked Mr Bachchan for helping him reach his home, that too in a flight free of cost.
"I had never travelled in a plane before this, but Bachchan sahib made it possible for me, that too at a time when I was badly stuck in Mumbai amid the lockdown. I'm returning home after eight months," Mr Hasan, who runs a tailoring shop in Mumbai's Hazi Ali area, said.
Azamgarh native Mukesh Madhesia, who runs a tailoring shop at Worli in Mumbai, also expressed his gratitude for Mr Bachchan.
"I contacted Haji Ali Dargah and filled up a travel form on being told by a friend about Bachchan saheb making arrangements for flights for UP natives desirous to return home. And we got flight tickets soon. It was unbelievable," he said.
"We were very worried due to our closed shop and no other avenue of income amid the lockdown. But Amitabh Bachchan saved us by helping us reach home," he added.
Allahabad Airport Director Sunil Yadav said: "This A 320 airbus of IndiGo has brought a total of 180 passengers from Mumbai. Another special flight is slated to land here on Thursday."
Earlier this week, actor Sonu Sood had also arranged a special flight to send 180 Assamese migrants home. Last month, he helped 177 workers stuck in Kerala to fly home to Odisha.
The lockdown, which began on March 25, left lakhs of migrants stranded in different parts of the country. With no money and no work, many walked, cycled or hitchhiked their way to villages hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres away.