Amidst the second wave of coronavirus cases in India, CEOs of about 40 top American companies have joined hands to create a global task force to mobilise resources to help India fight the battle against COVID-19.
A collective initiative of the US-India Business Council of the US Chambers of Commerce and the US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum and Business Roundtable, the task force during its meeting here on Monday committed to get 20,000 oxygen concentrators to India in the next few weeks, Deloitte CEO Puneet Renjen told PTI.
The public-private partnership to provide critical medical supplies, vaccines, oxygen and other life-saving assistance to India amid an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases is called the 'Global Task Force on Pandemic Response: Mobilizing for India'.
A first-of-its-kind country-specific global task force to address a public health crisis in another country was addressed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
"...Blinken met virtually with leaders of American business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-India Business Council today to discuss how the United States and India can leverage the expertise and capabilities of the U.S. private sector to support urgent COVID-19 relief efforts in India," the state department said.
India reported 3,23,144 new COVID-19 cases and 2,771 deaths in the preceding 24 hours as of Tuesday morning. The total active caseload stands at 28,82,204. Scarcity of oxygen, hospital beds and medicines have been reported from across the country.
Observing that the first issue is around oxygen and its concentrators, Renjen said they have commitments to get 20,000 oxygen concentrators to India in the next few weeks. The first 1,000 will arrive by the middle of this week, he said, adding another 11,000 oxygen concentrators are expected to reach the country by May 5.
"Our goal is to get 25,000, and maybe even a number higher than that," he added.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US president Joe Biden had a telephonic conversation on the coronavirus situation in both the countries.
In a tweet, Biden said he pledged America's full support to provide emergency assistance and resources in the fight against COVID-19.
Today, I spoke with Prime Minister @narendramodi and pledged America's full support to provide emergency assistance and resources in the fight against COVID-19. India was there for us, and we will be there for them.- President Biden (@POTUS) April 26, 2021
Welcoming the call between the leaders and the decision of the US government to urgently send supplies to India, the Deloitte CEO reiterated that the two countries are natural allies.
"I'm very heartened by the fact that the US government is going to step up and do its part," he said.
The fight against COVID-19 is personal for him. Several family members of Renjen, who comes from Rohtak in India's Haryana, have contracted the disease. Around 2,000 of Deloitte's employees in India have been infected, he said.
"We are facilitating individuals getting the vaccines. We are providing them medical assistance, home testing kits. This is being consistently done by all entities that have big footprints in India. That is really important to do," Renjen said.
The task force also comprises representations from the retail sector, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, technology industry and large manufacturing entities.
"This global crisis requires a global response, and the American business community could not be better positioned, or more determined, to help lead the way," said Suzanne Clark, president and chief executive officer of the US Chamber of Commerce.
The US companies are coordinating with the Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who earlier in the week provided them with a list of items that are of critical need.
The list includes oxygen concentrators, oxygen generators, two critical medicines that he wanted to see if the US government can release, monitoring kits, and encouraging the Biden administration to ease the supply of critical materials for vaccines.