Covid in India: Abu Dhabi group sends 100 oxygen cylinders back home

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Abu Dhabi Filed on May 4, 2021
Volunteers of Abu Dhabi-based Triveni group prepare oxygen cylinders to be sent to India. — Photo by Shihab

Plan to send more relief materials till the requirements remain

An Abu Dhabi-based community group is sending 100 oxygen cylinders to the Indian city of Nagpur in Maharashtra, a spokesperson for the group told Khaleej Times on Tuesday.

Some members of the social group, called Triveni, suggested the idea to the larger community last week, and nearly 140 UAE residents have contributed towards the noble cause, said group member Manoj Munishwar, a long-time resident of Abu Dhabi, amid the raging second wave of the lethal Covid-19 outbreak in their native country.

The shipment of 100 oxygen cylinders, which the group procured from a Dubai-based oxygen cylinders trading company, would be dispatched to Mumbai via a cargo shipment from Jebel Ali port in Dubai on Tuesday, said Sandesh Ubhe, a group member.

“A shipping company will transport the cylinders to Mumbai and then via road to Nagpur,” he added. "The group is working with a registered Indian non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Loka Mandal Foundation, which will then supply it to those in need," Ubhe said. The shipment will reach India in 12 days.

Khaleej Times caught up with several members of Triveni at a warehouse in Jebel Ali on Tuesday.

India’s official count of Covid-19 cases surpassed 20 million on Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while contagion-related deaths have crossed 220,000.

According to India's Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoH&FW), the country added 357,229 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 20.3 million people have been infected to date.

Fresh 3,449 deaths were also reported as the overall tally rose to 222,408. Several states across the country have reported an acute shortage of medical oxygen for patients, who are suffering from a severe difficulty in breathing.

The Indian government has issued notifications exempting basic customs duty and, or health cess, on imports of several Covid-19-related relief materials for a limited timeframe. “This exemption has benefitted our group’s initiative,” said Sunil Sawant, another group member.

How did the initiative evolve?

The idea for the initiative was launched on a social media group about a week ago. “It began after the head of the Loka Mandal NGO reached out to me asking for financial aid for medical oxygen cylinders in Nagpur, as there was a shortage in the city. I sent some money to India to support the cause,” said Munishwar. However, when the requirement increased, the idea to make this a collective effort was raised. “Also, many of the volunteers have their families back home who are suffering due to lack of medical aid,” said Ajit Katarkar, a volunteer.

“As soon as the idea was floated, many Indian expatriates came forward expressing a desire to contribute,” said Jagdeep Shitole, a group member. About 12 members from the group handled the logistics, while the rest contributed money for its purchase. “When we compared the cost, we realised oxygen is cheaper in the UAE, including the export fees,” he added.

In the UAE, a 40-litre cylinder costs anything between Dh470 to Dh600. “The prices are rising because the local demand for oxygen is going up as well. A single-cylinder will last a patient anything between eight and 12 hours depending on the oxygen flow recommended by the doctor,” said Munishwar. In India, one oxygen cylinder costs upwards of Dh2,500.

The group did consider purchasing oxygen concentrators. However, since concentrators require 24-hour electricity, which is not always possible in India, the group decided to send oxygen cylinders instead.

“In a non-hospital facility, non-stop electricity is not always possible. Also, the machine heats up after three hours. You need to stop it, let it cool for an hour and then start using it again. The process could cost someone their life,” said Umesh Parmar, another member of Triveni. The group intends to continue sending relief supplies as long as the requirement arises.


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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