World On the ground and afar, diaspora boosts India's virus fight
SOS messages, panic as virus breaks India's health system
NEW DELHI (AP) — Dr. Gautam Singh dreads the daily advent of the ventilator beeps, signaling that oxygen levels are critically low, and hearing his critically ill patients start gasping for air in the New Delhi emergency ward where he works. Like other doctors across the country, which on Monday set another record for new coronavirus infections for a fifth day in a row at more than 350,000, the cardiologist has taken to begging and borrowing cylinders of oxygen just to keep his most critical patients alive for one more day.
India's large diaspora — long a boon to India's economy — is tapping its wealth, political clout and expertise to help its home country combat the catastrophic coronavirus surge that has left people to die outside overwhelmed hospitals.
Around the world, people of Indian descent are donating money, personally delivering desperately needed oxygen equipment and setting up telehealth consultations and information sessions in hopes of beating back the outbreak.
India tops 200,000 dead as virus surge breaks health system
NEW DELHI (AP) — India crossed a grim milestone Wednesday of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections tears through dense cities and rural areas alike and overwhelms health care systems on the brink of collapse. The health ministry reported a single-day record 3,293 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India's total fatalities to 201,187, as the world's second most populous country endures its darkest chapter of the pandemic yet. The country also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.
Two humanitarian groups in the U.S. led by people of Indian background raised more than $25 million in recent days to help the teetering health care system. Indian American doctors, hotel owners and other entrepreneurs, some responding to requests for help from Indian leaders, have pledged or donated millions more.
In Britain, volunteers at three Hindu templesby racking up 20,127 kilometers (12,506 miles) on stationary bikes, or roughly three times the distance from London to New Delhi. And in Canada, Sikhs have donated between $700 and $2,000 to each of dozens of people in need of costly oxygen cylinders.
As virus engulfs India, diaspora watches with despair
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bad news, knowing no time zones, arrives in a jarring burst of messages, calls and posts informing millions of members of India's worldwide diaspora that yet another loved one has been sickened or lost to the coronavirus. Sometimes it comes in a barrage of WhatsApp messages first thing in the morning, and sometimes it lands in the middle of the night, as it did for Mohini Gadré's father. A 3 a.m. call at his San Francisco Bay Area home let him know that his octogenarian mother — who had tested positive in Mumbai — was too weak to say her morning prayers, setting off a mad scramble to find her the hospital bed where she remained for days.
The magnitude of the response reflects the deep pockets of many people in the overseas Indian community, as well as their deep ties to India, which have fueled similar efforts to help the country in the past.
“I feel that this crisis has kind of sparked or triggered a fresh and new emotional affiliation to India,” said Nishant Pandey, CEO of the American India Foundation. The group launched a fundraising drive on April 24 that raked in roughly $20 million in a week, much of it from the Indian diaspora. The money will be used in part to expand hospital capacity and oxygen production in India.
India’s official count of coronavirus casesand deaths officially topped 220,000, though the true numbers are believed to be much higher.
India launches effort to inoculate all adults against COVID
NEW DELHI (AP) — In hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections, India opened vaccinations to all adults Saturday, launching a huge inoculation effort that was sure to tax the limits of the federal government, the country's vaccine factories and the patience of its 1.4 billion people. The world's largest maker of vaccines was still short of critical supplies — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages that delayed the rollout in several states. And even in places where the shots were in stock, the country’s wide economic disparities made access to the vaccine inconsistent.
“Mother India is in dire need of the non-resident Indians to step up," Hemant Patel, a hotel developer from Miami, said in an appeal for aid on WhatsApp. His efforts helped generate more than $300,000 in medical donations, he said.
Patel traveled to his hometown of Navsari in the state of Gujarat in March to visit his mother after getting vaccinated and is now serving as a liaison between local hospitals and Indians in the U.S.
He has also donated eight oxygen machines —- holding a religious ceremony to bless the first one — and paid to have a van outfitted with a stretcher and oxygen to serve COVID-19 patients.
“God has put me in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Some members of the overseas Indian community have appended harsh words to their support efforts, accusing the Indian government of botching the fight against the virus.
Others, especially medical professionals, wish they could go to India but face travel restrictions there and new ones in the U.S., Britain and Canada.
Sunil Tolani, CEO of a hotel and real estate company in California, said he donated $300,000 to help people in India during the surge and lobbied the Biden administration to step up its support. Other prominent Indian Americans have also pressed the White House for action.
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Meenakshi Narula Ahamed writes that India's prime minister Narendra Modi's handling of the pandemic is endangering the country's public health but also its public institutions and democracy.By 2014, when Narendra Modi became prime minister of the world's largest democracy, India had long shed her image being one of the poorest nations teeming with starving and sick people in constant need of foreign aid. Under a team of pro-western reformers, India underwent an economic transformation in the 90's and by the early 2000's was being hailed as an economic powerhouse and an attractive partner for the western alliance.
“If India would have put their act together, they wouldn’t need this help in the first place," Tolani said, accusing the government there of “total complacency and incompetence.”
The surge in infections since February has been blamed on more contagious variants of the virus as well as government decisions to allow huge crowds to gather for Hindu religious festivals and political rallies.
A spokesman for the Indian government, Prakash Javadekar, said it is ramping up hospital capacity and supplies of oxygen and drugs but is facing a “once-in-a-century crisis.”
The U.S. last week began delivering treatments, rapid virus tests and oxygen along with materials needed for India to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines. Britain is also sending a substantial amount of aid.
More than 6 million people of Indian descent live in the two countries — part of a diaspora the Indian government estimates at over 32 million, including nearly 3.5 million in the United Arab Emirates and just under 3 million in Malaysia. Donations are pouring in from non-Indians and corporations as well.
Sikhs for Justice, an advocacy group that calls for an independent state for Sikhs in India, said the Indian government blocked its COVID-19 relief website, oxygenfund.org, that aimed to connect Indians who can’t affordto Sikhs in the U.S., Canada and other countries willing to send them money.
'Horrible' weeks ahead as India's virus catastrophe worsens
NEW DELHI (AP) — COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.” India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.
The group turned to WhatsApp and by Monday had managed to provide assistance to nearly 150 people, said its general counsel, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
An email to the Indian Embassy in Washington went unanswered. The Indian government has classified Sikhs for Justice as a terrorist group and banned it, Anshuman Gaur, India’s deputy high commissioner to Canada, told The Canadian Press.
India is not shying away from soliciting help from its expatriates, continuing a long tradition of drawing on their money and patriotic fervor.
In 1998, Indian leaders urged non-resident Indians to invest in the country by buying government bonds after the U.S. and other nations imposed sanctions against India for conducting nuclear tests.
In 2001, disaster assistance from Indian Americans helped rebuild parts of Gujarat devastated by an earthquake that killed thousands. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent years has encouraged Indians overseas to contribute funds and expertise to his sanitation initiatives in India.
During the current crisis, Indian consulate officials reached out to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which responded by raising more than $2 million in about a week, President Sudhakar Jonnalagadda said.
The group, which represents more than 80,000 doctors in the U.S., has used the money to buy oxygen concentrators and plans to expand a telehealth network to allow patients in India to consult with physicians in the U.S.
The virus's rapid spread in India has left few people in the diaspora. Sajal Rohatgi, co-founder of Subziwalla.com, a U.S.-based South Asian grocery delivery service, said dozens of friends and family in India have contracted the virus and two have died.
He and the company's other founder, Manav Thaker, arranged for a U.S. virologist to give a talk on Instagram about India's COVID-19 crisis and how people there can try to stay safe — information they say is lacking there.
Their hope is that Indian Americans will convey the importance of masks, social distancing and vaccinations to their friends and family in India.
"We really just want to give the right, credible information," Thaker said. “Then maybe we'll get some relief.”
Task Force Hopes to Save 1 Million Lives By Sending Oxygen Concentrators to India .
A U.S.-based task force is working to deliver 100,000 oxygen concentrators to India to assist with the country's latest COVID-19 wave.Fueled by public organizations and private companies in the U.S., the effort began last month as reports spread of India's fractured health care system and photos emerged of people surrounded by funeral pyres watching their loved ones' bodies burn.