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Indian diaspora struggles to help a homeland “gasping for air” | India News


Jaspreet Rai is desperately trying to do his part for the country he left more than 30 years ago: to help his people breathe.
Rai, 53, who moved to Endicott, New York – IBM’s birthplace – from Punjab, India, is the founder of Sanrai International, a supplier of oxygen concentrators. Now that India is the epicenter of the pandemic, with some 3,500 deaths a day from Covid-19 and oxygen supplies running low, Rai was quick to help his former homeland cope with the worst crisis in recent history.
“This is probably the most difficult time they are going through,” Rai said of his 100-strong staff on the ground, which will supply 30,000 units across India in May, several times the 1,500 that Sanrai normally provides in a year. “When you don’t have equipment and you’re trying to hold people down, and they’re gasping, literally out of air. And you say, look, I have sold my last unit, I have to wait until the next action comes. ”

Like Rai, millions of Indians spread across the globe, one of the world’s largest diasporas, are trying to do everything they can to help their home country through heartbreaking images of people lining up to receive cylinders of oxygen, waiting for a bed outside the hospitals. or huddled around funeral pyres flash on their screens. Some have been unable to do anything to save family members who succumbed to the disease.
Feeling helpless
They are raising funds, lobbying governments in the countries where they reside, and promising to transport essential supplies and equipment. But the scale of the task leaves many feeling helpless as the healthcare infrastructure in the world’s second-most populous country teeters on the brink of collapse.
“They need doctors and hospitals,” said Venktesh Shukla, general partner at Monta Vista Capital in Silicon Valley. “I have been struggling for the past three or four days to figure out what to do. Like many Indians, we want to do something. We just can’t find a short-term solution to help us. ”

Indian diaspora struggles to help a homeland "gasping for air" | India News

A Covid patient receives oxygen inside a car provided by a Gurdwara in Delhi. (AP Photo)
India in chaos like vaccine driving in disorder
Despite that frustration, the need to “do something” in the face of unfolding tragedy is prompting many to act.
Like Sudhir Ravi. Little did Ravi know he would embark on a humanitarian mission when Chicago-based private equity boutique TJM Capital Partners, where he is an operating partner, bought the largest US supplier of military-grade oxygen generators in a strategic acquisition in April.
But with Covid enraged, Ravi soon identified 11 industrial-strength oxygen concentrators between the US and Germany that can be distributed to hospitals in India. The devices can deliver oxygen to 50,000 people in the next six months.

For the past week, he and Raghu Gullapalli, a close contact and CEO of the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, have been desperately searching for ways to get them to India, requesting the services of Amazon and FedEx. A consortium of Indian philanthropists has promised to cover the $ 100,000 shipping cost, and Ravi said they hope to have the cargo airborne on May 5.
“Right now, time is measured in lives,” Gullapalli said.
Multimillion dollar share
Indian-born billionaires and executives are also joining in with help. Tech investor Vinod Khosla tweeted that he is willing to ship supplies by “plane cargo.” Google, led by Sundar Pichai, promised $ 18 million in cash assistance to the families of the victims and the medical team. Microsoft Corp., led by CEO Satya Nadella, is committed to leveraging the company’s network to provide essential supplies.
In the UK, home to around two million Indians, help came from the likes of steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and Karan Bilimoria, who helped win the support of companies like the first Indian chief of the Confederation of British Industry. .
“We are focused on getting this desperately needed help as quickly as possible,” said Bilimoria, whose company produces Cobra beer, a staple of Indian restaurants in the UK Air Liquide SA, the French gas supplier that helps create the bubbles at Bilimoria’s. beer, has pledged its oxygen production in India to support Covid patients.
A patient receives medical oxygen in a room at the Covid-19 Care Center installed at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi.
Mittal’s Indian operations are providing 210 metric tons of liquid oxygen a day. “Helping the people of India means helping India, and that is crucial for the whole world,” he said in an emailed statement.
The UK-based charitable foundation of billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa, who bought the Asda supermarket chain, donated 2.5 million pounds ($ 3.5 million) to four hospitals in the state of Gujarat , in western India, where his family comes from.
Vaccine problems
As life in the United Kingdom and the United States grows closer to pre-pandemic normality, for Indians abroad who care about family and friends, unequal access to vaccines becomes apparent. Only 2% of people in India have been fully vaccinated compared to 30% in the US and 21% in the UK, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Shukla of Monta Vista said he and 60 other influential Indians lobbied to convince the Joe Biden administration to release supplies of vaccines and steroids. The United States has decided to start shipping drugs such as the AstraZeneca and Remdesivir vaccine to India.
Yet despite all that, there is much that even powerful Indians can do remotely, as shortages of raw materials and equipment, transportation delays, and manpower limits hamper efforts on the ground. .
“There are a limited number of oxygen concentrators available on the market,” said Jitesh Gadhia, a British politician and trustee of the British Asian Trust who has helped lead the UK government’s response and engagement with suppliers. “I am concerned that so many people trying to buy limited stocks will just drive up prices. What we need is more supply. ”

And that will not be easy. While at Endicott, Rai is trying to find charter flights to get around the bottlenecks in getting his oxygen concentrators to India from China, he said that the units his company can provide in a month “will probably only be usable in one month. day”.
Rai, who founded her company after her asthmatic grandmother died in 2008 in need of oxygen, said she is saddened by the continuing struggle in India for something as essential as the air we breathe.
“I couldn’t understand how something as basic as oxygen was so complicated,” he said. “And that question is the one I’ve been trying to answer for the past 13 years.”

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