Shefali Saxena Wednesday 28th April 2021 04:53 EDT

The UK’s Indian community, worried for their friends and family in India, has come forward to help the world’s worst hit country fight its Covid-19 battle, by raising more than £100,000 within hours. 

A GoFundMe appeal set up by Amit Kachroo and two others to supply India with oxygen concentrators had by Sunday night reached £1,00,000 from just 1800 donors. 

The Facebook group Indians in London had many from the diaspora who shared contact numbers of UK courier companies and companies selling oxygen concentrators in the UK to link its supplies to Amazon India to ship within days. 

A petition started on change.org by Indian-origin Rohit Kotecha, addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, garnered 200 signatures within hours. People of Indian heritage in Britain were helpless witnesses as the Covid crisis unfolded thousands of miles away. 

Sanam Arora, Founder & Chairperson, National Indian Students & Alumni Union UK also extended her support towards the petition and tweeted, “Requesting Hon @BorisJohnson to reach out to India and support in its hour of need. Oxygen, Ventilators, Telemedicine, Medicines are required. Let us be the Global Britain envisaged post Brexit: a real force for good.”

The Indian High Commission in the UK put out an SOS tweet on 24 April, "empty refillable oxygen cylinders with 10-litre and 45-litre LMO capacity, oxygen concentrators as well as "in situ oxygen manufacturing plants for hospitals'' and the drug Remdesivir. Any individual that can help is urged to write to Rahul Nangare at [email protected]

The UK expedited packages of over 600 medical equipment which included 495 oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital systems have run out, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators which have reached Delhi as you read. 

PM Boris Johnson extending help said, “I’m determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against pandemic.”

Following which, the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), which funded India’s assistance package, sent ventilators and oxygen concentrators from surplus stocks which will be used to treat Covid-19 patients.

This brings back memories of the Bhuj Earthquake in Gujarat (2001) when Britain stepped up to help India with aid worth £10Mn and tents, blankets, shelter equipment which reached Ahmedabad via six aircrafts. 

Power of the global community

Speaking to Asian Voice, Lord Navnit Dholakia PC,OBE,DL, Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats said, “Coronavirus has no boundary. India has been at the forefront of manufacturing vaccines that has helped many parts of the world. Little did we realise that India will suffer dire consequences now that Covid has taken strongholds in all big Indian cities and in many of its rural areas where strict lockdown has not been possible. India  is now looking at other countries to provide emergency equipment to assist her to deal with this calamity. We thank the UK Government, The European Union Countries and the United States to come to its aid. WE have a large Indian diaspora in the western world. We all have a duty to assist in  any way we can. I have already sent a donation that was sent to me to organisations dealing with street children there. Let us all ensure that we are doing our bit at this difficult time.”

Lord Jitesh Gadhia told Asian Voice, “It is welcome to see the UK Government step-up to help India in its hour of need.  A consignment of oxygen concentrators and ventilators from the UK will reach India this week.  More support is being considered and nothing should be off the table.  

“In parallel the diaspora community has been anxious to help.  It's important that we don’t compete against the Government of India in procuring its medical equipment.  I would therefore urge members of the community to channel their desire to help through established and reputable organisations like Sewa International,  BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and British Asian Trust. As a Trustee of British Asian Trust, we have launched an emergency appeal which can be accessed through www.britishasiantrust.org and also through the Virgin Money and JustGiving donation websites,” Lord Gadhia told the newsweekly.

In an initiative of BAPS - Swaminarayan Sanstha, the official Twitter handle of Neasden Temple sent out a tweet saying, “The situation in India is dire and critical. Thousands are dying daily. We have launched an international campaign to help provide emergency health care and support. For those who want to support us, please go tohttp://neasdentemple.org/donate.” 

“We are sending 90 mini ventilators through Indian High Commission (B’gham CG- Dr S. Vikram) and concentrating on fund raising and sending medical equipment. APNA NHS is coordinating with the Health Secretary & Indian High Commission. We are a group of SE Asian Doctors working in the NHS,” Prof Dr Shiv Pande told the newsweekly.

Sharing his thoughts with us, Yogesh Patel of BAPS said, “We all need to do our bit and that is why we have launched our appeal for funds so that we are able to expand our existing provision of hospital  and medical centres with a new 500-bed facility in Atladara (in the district of Vadodara),  equipped with ICU facilities, provision of life-saving oxygen as well as PPE for medical staff  and meals and accommodation for the volunteers, elderly and vulnerable. I note below a quote from P. Yogvivek Swami, head priest at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. “The situation in India is dire and critical. Thousands are dying daily, so please do donate generously to help support the BAPS relief work and save lives. Pramukh Swami Maharaj left a legacy with his ethos, ‘In the joy of others lies our own.’ There has perhaps never been a more critical and opportune moment to embody this noble principle.”

In an appeal to support India by supplying Oxygen Concentrators, UK based (Sikh) International humanitarian relief organisation Khalsa Aid tweeted, “We are appealing for donations of Oxygen Concentrator machines  for #India! Please contact our U.K. office 01753 567457 or email [email protected] Donations from U.K. only !

 City Hindus Network appealed to the community to donate to two trusted charities: Go Dharmic and Sewa UK. 

In a video address in Hindi on Twitter, British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis said, “We are supporting our Indian friends with medical equipment to help them in the battle against Coronavirus. We will win this fight together.”

Lakshmi Kaul, Head & Representative, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) UK also took a step forward to help India. She tweeted: “Calling out to any manufacturers or suppliers  in the UK to get in touch. You may email me on: [email protected]

 Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab shared pictures of several urgent deliveries of surplus medical equipment sent to India to help provide life-saving care for vulnerable Covid patients. “No-one is safe until we are all safe,” he said. 

As prestigious Indian hospital chains live tweeted about the depleting supply of resources to tackle mind boggling cases, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The heart-breaking scenes in India show once again how awful this terrible disease is. We are determined to support the people of India through this very difficult time, and I am hugely grateful to those who have worked hard to make this initial delivery happen. This first delivery of life saving equipment will provide much needed assistance and we stand ready to do more."

Cllr Rabina Khan said, “Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity with the people of India and will continue to urge the British government to deploy more supplies and resources. I represent a London borough where I have seen multiple deaths in families and households from Covid-19.  Where Bangladeshis are twice as likely to die from Covid; it is truly devastating.  When you see images of sick or dying people desperate to get hold of oxygen. I spoke to my friend in Mumbai, she and her mother have Covid, and it was very emotional when she said, ‘You are fasting, please pray for my mother.’ With patients dying on the pavement, what India is suffering is urgent for global leaders to act now to help.  And yet as we watched those tragic scenes of continuous funeral pyres, here in London we had people marching in an anti-lockdown protest.  We have to care about sharing Covid resources globally for an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. The UK has a shared history with India and let us not be remembered as being selfish in India’s hour of need.”

Cllr Anton Georgiou, who represents the London Borough of Brent and has worked with Khan on issues of how Covid impacts people from South Asian Communities.  said, “I represent a ward with a large South Asian and Indian community. Many residents here have tragically been directly impacted by the pandemic, either by losing loved ones or knowing people who have. As we witness the virus ravage India my heart aches for the Indian people. It is the duty of our government to do all they can to help the Indian doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who are fighting this latest wave on the frontline. We are not safe, until we are all safe.”

Meanwhile, British citizens stranded in India were seeking charter flights to avoid hotel quarantine in a desperate bid to get home. Six chartered planes landed in the UK on Friday, 30 minutes before the ban started.

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