The Indo-Swiss private sector, groups of people setting up fundraisers for aid, and private individuals using their international networks are all geared up, creating an inlet of aid to India in this hour of need. Aradhna Sethi interviews some of the motivated influencers tackling this situation with unshakeable faith, hope and action.
In the previous article of this series, Shinta Simon covered some of the initiatives that were started by the local Indo-Swiss community to harness funds and aid for Indians back home as the country battles through the fight against the Coronavirus. A virus that has crippled the world and, at the moment, taken India firmly in its clutches.
We now take a look at some more avenues that are sending aid with the aim to stabilize the medical situation in India.
Swiss Private Sector India Relief
The SICC – Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce – is leading an initiative whereby close to 40 Swiss companies have come together and pledged medical relief worth over CHF 7 million for India’s fight against Covid-19. The initiative is jointly supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi and the Swiss Business Hub India. Philippe Reich, Chairman, SICC is quoted as saying: “We would like to send a strong message from Switzerland, Inc. to India – we are with you, now and in the future!”
Currently, Swiss companies in India are already making efforts towards setting up oxygen generation plants, distributing oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators and masks, as well as facilitating vaccination. In addition to this, the first medical relief package reached New Delhi on May 8, 2021. This package included oxygen concentrators, rapid antigen test kits, ventilators, portable suction pumps, helmets with ventilation for medical staff, masks, diabetes care products and sanitizers.
The companies that are contributing to the cause include: Ammann Group, BRACK.CH, Bimeda, Credit Suisse, DHL, EBP Schweiz, Euro Alliance, Fracht, Hamilton Medical, HeiQ Materials, Holcim, Medela, Monterosa Group, M+R Spedag Group, Nestlé, Optrel, Oxymed, PwC Schweiz, Rieter, Roche Diagnostics, S.P. Hinduja Banque Privée SA, Steiner, Straumann, UBS, Ypsomed, Zürcher Kantonalbank, Zurich Airport, and the initiative is also supported by Economiesuisse and Swissmem.
SICC’s Executive Director Shirin Wani tells us, “We will continue to support India’s fight against Covid until the time that India needs aid. Our initiative is ongoing and not just a one-time contribution. A second air cargo will be on its way to India tomorrow. With our partners, which includes the Swiss companies in India, the Swiss Embassy and Swiss Business Hub, we ensure proper and transparent distribution and accountability of the aid sent. In addition, the material is also distributed with the support of the Indian Red Cross Society and directly via Swiss companies that are present in India.”
Swiss Nationalrat member and President, Swiss Indian Parliamentarian Group: Nik Gugger
Born in India, adopted by his Swiss parents at a very young age (see our article on Nik Gugger), Nik Gugger has a soft corner for his former homeland. It makes him sad to see how Covid-19 continues to get deathly, with medical cases in need of help and oxygen outweighing the medical provision facilities countrywide. While supporting fundraisers, he has reached out to the Hamilton company in Bonaduz GR to invest personally in invasive respirators for the medical centre in Odisha. “It is important that we help quickly and unhindered by bureaucracy,” he says.
He expresses his views on how the religious and political events have spurred the virus spread and the mutations on a premature basis of receding cases in August 2020. Added to this is the fact that the country has run out of vaccines – and due to the rapid and massive increase in the number of cases – all amenities are falling short. In such a scenario, he believes his commitment is just a drop in the ocean. But on a more optimistic note, he adds with a humble smile, “I believe many such drops can come together to make a sea of impact.” And with this aim to create a sea of aid for India, he has started a fundraiser by the name of ‘Hope for the hopeless’, which he launched on International Red Cross Day (Henry Dunant’s birthday). He says, “The Red Cross has been helping the sick, the poorest and the weakest. And at the moment, my thoughts are also with the most vulnerable in India. I am sure that you are all as moved as I am with the drastic situation in India. I am especially concerned about the remote regions in India – such as Odisha, where the indigenous people are suffering.”
“Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences is close to my heart. It has dedicated over 1,100 beds to Covid patients. So many tribal children are suffering as their parents have died because of Covid.”
As the Global Ambassador of Kalinga Institute in Odisha, Nik has created a campaign to purchase equipment and urgently ship them to hospitals of Kalinga Institute of medical science. “I have launched a fundraising campaign to buy much-needed additional ventilators, beds and food. Please see the fundraising campaign: https://lnkd.in/dtYTTbU and feel free to donate towards the cause. Your donations are welcome at https://crowdfunding.copalana.org/mycampaign/555/nik-gugger/hope-for-the-hopeless,” he urges.
Oxygen for India Initiative: A cross-continental endeavor
“It all began when COVID stories hit close to home. Parents of friends, extended family members, and almost everyone seemed to know a person who had not been spared by the rapidly mutating and fast-moving virus,” says Atul Pahwa, a longtime resident of the canton of Vaud. When he got a call from a person known to him, for help in order to supply oxygen concentrators to support Indians through this fight against Covid, Atul quickly reached out to his professional networks across Asia and the United States.
By 28 April, he had formed an initiative ‘Oxygen for India’ that consisted of like-minded volunteers in Silicon Valley and Gurgaon. The team pooled their collective resources and immediately went on a fundraising drive, while simultaneously moving their procurement initiative to high gear.
Within 48 hours, the team had identified the largest manufacturer of oxygen concentrators, DeVilBiss in the U.S. and got the company’s commitment to supply over 3000 units customised specifically for Indian market conditions. In parallel, the team identified NGOs, charities, small local hospitals (where the need was the greatest), and set up a logistics operation based out of New Delhi to set up the distribution of the product in 10+ cities across the country.
The team purchased the units, air freighted, and distributed the devices over USD 3 million within its first 10 days of establishing the initiative. Separately, a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign was set up for the collection of funds for the most vulnerable populations. Thanks to the generosity of fellow Swiss residents and citizens, the collection stood at CHF 77,000 as of May 13. All proceeds have been remitted to various groups within India. The team hopes to raise up to CHF 150,000 to continue to support the needs of the Covid-stricken across the rural areas of the country.
The initiative is also being backed by the Women’s India Association of the UK, the oldest registered Asian charity in the UK founded by Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, previously the President of the UN General Assembly and the US Ambassador to India.
Know more about initiative here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/oxygenindia
The work of this team has been covered on ABC News – (https://abc7news.com/society/bay-area-indian-community-leading-drive-to-send-oxygen-to-india/10561115/), RTS (https://www.rts.ch/play/tv/redirect/detail/12185955), and WPBF Florida (https://www.wpbf.com/article/local-anesthesiologist-raising-money-to-send-oxygen-to-india/36344432).
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