Covid-19: Indians in London unite in wake of crisis as death toll passes 200,000

Abbianca Makoni
·4-min read
<p>Relatives carry a woman who fainted after seeing the body of her husband at a hospital in Ahmedabad, India</p> (AP)

Relatives carry a woman who fainted after seeing the body of her husband at a hospital in Ahmedabad, India


As a second wave of the Covid pandemic rages in India, leaving hospitals without oxygen and bodies on the streets, the Indian Diaspora in London are coming together.

Community members have launched fundraisers to buy oxygen concentrators, as well as gathering to pray for relatives and friends suffering thousands of miles away.

India’s coronavirus death toll now stands at more than 200,000, as a surge of new infections tears through cities and rural areas alike and leaves healthcare systems on the brink of collapse.

“The situation is desperate right now. The scenes people are witnessing are deeply tragic - they see people lying in hospital car parks full of screaming relatives,” said Manoj Badale, chairman of the British Asian Trust.

Mr Badale’s sister works as a doctor in Maharashtra, India and she had been trying to “simply save lives,” he said.

The British Asian trust, run by Asians living in the UK to support development projects, is also on the same mission and is currently focusing its efforts on a shortage of oxygen.

Its Oxygen for India Appeal, which the chairman says has received “widespread support even from the wider British community,” has so far raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy oxygen concentrators - a device which can provide enriched gas straight from the air.

Manoj Badale, chairman of the British Asian TrustTeresa-Walton
Manoj Badale, chairman of the British Asian TrustTeresa-Walton

Prince Charles, who founded the Trust in 2007, has made a personal donation to the campaign.

Prince Charles said: “I have been deeply saddened by the tragic images we have all seen as Covid-19 takes its horrific toll in India.

“Like many others, I have a great love for India and have enjoyed many wonderful visits to the country.

“Indian aid and ingenuity has been a support to other countries through this immensely difficult time.

“As India has helped others, so now must we help India.”

‘A very dire situation’

Yogesh Patel, 64, who works with the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, known as the Neasden temple, told The Standard the situation in India was “dire” and there was a lot of apprehension within the London community.

“It can be difficult mentally to keep on top of what is happening back there and we live in a digital age at the moment where news is all over the place...There’s apprehension because the numbers just keep rising - it is a very dire situation and we are doing what we can.

“I know within the temple there are devotees whose friends and family have passed away while some are in critical condition with Covid.”

The temple has also launched an international emergency appeal campaign to support their relief efforts across India -which have so far included the building of a makeshift hospital in Atladara, district of Vadodara, pictured below.

The hospital in Atladara - district of Vadodara is equipped with ICU facilitiesNeasden temple
The hospital in Atladara - district of Vadodara is equipped with ICU facilitiesNeasden temple

The hospital has 500 beds and is equipped with ICU facilities, provision of oxygen as well as PPE for medical staff.

The fundraiser has so far raised £100,000 but the temple is asking the British public to continue donating to support their mission. Funds will go towards food provisions and medical supplies.

Another campaign set up by Amit Kachroo and two others to supply India with oxygen concentrators reached £100,000 from just 1,800 donors on the day it launched.

Although some in the Indian diaspora said they had witnessed “unity” during “this difficult time”, others were critical of the Indian Government.

The computer science student has family living in IndiaSimran Bajwa
The computer science student has family living in IndiaSimran Bajwa

Simran Bajwa, 20, pictured above, is based in East London but has family in Punjab, India.

She said: “I do feel the Indian community does try its best to come together to raise awareness - whether through social media, protesting or setting up charities to help provide for those in desperate need.

“But even while there has been a Covid crisis in India, farmers have been protesting for months now and ultimately I believe it just speaks on how irresponsible their Government is and how they don’t really care for the lives of those fighting to feed everyone.”

Miss Bajwa, whose family members have described India as a “scary place to be in right now,” said the crisis in the country has made her anxious about when she will next see her grandmother.

Her thoughts were echoed by Uday, 64, from Kensington, West London, who said: “Hospitals are overwhelmed, especially in Delhi, which is probably the worst hit by what is happening.

“Some people are getting scared in big cities and the government is not doing much to keep things in control because people are still coming together and doing get togethers.”

Uday, who lost his cousin to Covid-19 and has family living in the city, said he believes the lack of social distancing and mask wearing is down to the Government.

“The Government does not have the will to take some strict decisions on these type of measures and make the decisions to stop these kind of these from happening.”

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