Students and alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities have come together to raise £65,000 (over Rs 65 lakh), which has been donated to about 20 organisations in India, including three in Kolkata, that are involved in the Covid fight.
The students said they had started the Oxbridge Student Action for Covid Relief in India in May because the “condition of people in this country was bad” and, according to at least one organiser, the central government's presence in managing the pandemic could not be seen.
Six student bodies were involved in the fund raising drive. They are the Oxford India Society, Oxford South Asian Society, Oxford Hindu Society, Cambridge India Society, Cambridge South Asia Forum and the Cambridge Bharatiya Society.
The objective was to contribute through Indian charities to improve medical care for Covid patients, including arranging for adequate oxygen support.
Among the 20-odd organisations that have received funds are the Liver Foundation, Mukti and Prantakatha of Kolkata, according to the Oxbridge Student Action.
“We have seen that the condition of people in India during the second wave of the Covid pandemic was very bad and the central government's presence was not there. People were losing livelihood and many did not get access to basic healthcare. We were concerned about the condition there,” Sameer Rashid Bhat, treasurer, Oxford South Asian Society, who is pursuing a PhD in public policies, told The Telegraph on Friday.
According to Sameer, a group of students in Oxford held a meeting on Zoom where the idea of raising funds came up.
“Initially, we had set a target of £10,000 and the amount was raised in less than two days,” said Sameer, who is from Kashmir. Students’ organisations from Cambridge approached them and they wanted to jointly raise funds for the Covid management fight in India.
“The idea was to support the people of India in any way possible,” said Sameer. An online platform was created where donations were accepted.
The students held physical fundraising programmes mostly on the campuses of the colleges and universities, where they also tried to raise awareness about the conditions in India.
“Motions were passed by students' bodies or Common Rooms about raising funds. Many such student bodies donated funds,” said Sameer.
A team of students was set up to do research about the voluntary organisations in India, after which they drew up a list of the groups who would get the money.
Anwesha Lahiri, a Kolkata girl pursuing PhD in epidemiology at Cambridge University and one of the organisers of the fund raising campaign, said they were feeling distressed about the situation in India.
“We were getting information from friends and family about the situation there. We could not go back home. The condition in the UK during the second wave was much better compared to India,” said Anwesha. “Many people back home did not have access to healthcare facilities.”
She said they were surprised to discover during the fund raising drive that people knew very little about the condition in India.
The Liver Foundation received £3,000.
“They had contacted us about a month back when the second wave was still there. The enthusiasm of the students touched my heart,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, the mentor of the foundation.
“We receive donations from various corporate bodies and other organisations. Groups of students so far away from India showing so much commitment and concern is a heartwarming factor in this pandemic,” said Chowdhury.
He said the money would be spent on running 11 Covid care centres set up by the foundation in remote areas of Bengal and ensuring access to vaccine centres.
Each centre has 20 beds with oxygen support, medicines and trained health workers.