Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid in India: Expats in UAE ask how they can help as cases surge

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on April 27, 2021
The Burj Khalifa lights up in support of India's fight against Covid-19. — File photo

Several Indian businessmen and expats said that at the moment, they consider any individual support as ‘a drop in the ocean’.

Heartbroken over the Covid-19 situation back home, Indian expats are ready to help but they are not sure how to do so. Considering that the urgent need is oxygen supply, many are clueless about where to get it and how to send it home.

India is facing a massive surge in cases, with many of its hospitals reporting shortage of oxygen. The country recorded 320,000 new infections on Tuesday, and total deaths are nearing 200,000. Expats have expressed their gratitude towards the government of the UAE for supplying oxygen containers during this time of need.

As they find ways to lend a hand, expats and community groups have reached out to Indian missions, which are in turn directing them to official government channels back home.

An official at the Consulate-General of India in Dubai told Khaleej Times that no fund-raising campaign involving UAE expatriates or community members has been launched by the missions. Instead, the mission is guiding individuals and groups into the direction where help is required.

Siddhartha Kumar Baraily, consul for Press, information, and culture at the consulate, said: “Whoever is approaching us with an interest to support, we are sharing the details in terms of where they would like to contribute; for example, to the Indian Red Cross Society. We are not consolidating contributions. We are instead guiding them to charities where they can donate.”

For business communities who want to provide oxygen supply, quotations from companies are being sent to the Ministry of External Affairs in India, said Baraily.

On Tuesday, the Indian Air Force airlifted six more cryogenic tanks from Dubai to West Bengal, India, for Covid-19 relief operations.

“Our Indian Air Force team is back in Dubai. They have airlifted the remaining 6 cryogenic tanks to India today. Thank you, Dubai, @AmbKapoor, @IAF_MCC and Caley Energy @CaleyFzco for helping us to make this happen,” tweeted the Adani Group on April 27. The first batch flew out on April 26.

Several Indian businessmen and expats said that at the moment, they consider any individual support as ‘a drop in the ocean’. They are also wary of contributing to certain funds as they fear it won’t reach those in need.

The medical community is working towards sourcing oxygen concentrators. Anthony Petit, group chief procurement officer at Aster DM Healthcare, said: “We have extended our help from the UAE in sourcing medical oxygen concentrators from India (to see what is available within the country) and from overseas. We only got negative responses from the Indian market and none of the equipment is available domestically. However, we hope to source some concentrators from overseas and we are awaiting supplier feedbacks in the coming days.”

At this stage, the PPE stock is not an issue, Petit added. “Only Covid-specific drugs regulated by the Indian Ministry of Health are in high demand, resulting in shortages. Oxygen supply also remains a concern in the short term for the community and in the mid-term for Aster facilities.”

Community leaders are calling for ‘coordination at a national level’. Raju Shroff, businessman and one of the members of the board of the trustees of the Hindu Temple in Bur Dubai, said: “We have been in talks with the consulate and the embassy at a group level. However, providing support individually is a challenge. The greatest demand is for oxygen and it is a niche commodity. Coordination is required at a national level. It’s not a commodity that a layman man can purchase down the road.”

They said the current circumstances were far more difficult than the situation during the Kerala floods in 2018.

Puttur Rahman, president of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, said: “We want to help, but we are unsure of how we can and the opportunity has not presented itself. When the floods happened in Kerala for example, we sent tonnes of essential supplies. Sending oxygen cylinders is not easy.”

He added: “If we send money (to official government funds) it will be like a drop in the ocean. Individually, we are extending financial help to families who have lost their loved ones, but, collectively, we are unsure of how to help. Honestly, it is a helpless feeling.”

Surender Singh Kandhari, businessman and head of the Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai, added: “Everyone is helping in their own capacity. We are on the lookout for oxygen and oxygen concentrators. We are also looking to supply ventilators and should be able to finalise in a day or two how to go about it. We are trying to find a way to support Delhi and Punjab.”

He also noted that the international Sikh NGO Khalsa Aid’s volunteers are distributing oxygen concentrators and wood for crematoriums in Delhi and Punjab.

Senior legal consultant advocate Hashik Thayikandy said: “Some individuals are sending money into the Chief Minister and Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. However, the confidence that it would reach the deserving is low.

“The scale of the requirement is very big. In terms of donating funds, we are encouraging people to donate to the Chief Ministers’ or the Prime Minister’s fund. But, the shortage is for hospital beds and oxygen at the moment. It is very difficult to help. We are happy that the UAE Government is supporting India,” said Roop Sidhu, general secretary of the Indian Association in Ajman.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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