Assistance has ranged from funds to essential medical requirements, with an aim to ensure that the well-being of employees in India and the safety of citizens.
Private and corporate entities domestic and overseas have been galvanised into putting their weight behind India’s fight against the surge in Covid-19 cases.
With infection rates and the death toll rising steadily and the plans for carrying out a nationwide vaccine programme, starting from May 1, now under doubt due to a vaccine shortage in some states it is all hands on deck to curb the spread of the pandemic which threatens the economy and human life.
Yesterday, according to Reuters, British bank Barclays committed a sum of $1.4 million worth of medical supplies to India .
In a statement put out to the media Chief Executive Jes Staley said, "We are very focused on India right now, which is our second biggest employee location. We are very mindful that a number of employees need to stay home. We want to keep paying them, but allow them to help their families manage.” Global behemoths like Amazon.com, Intel and Google have also worked out their strategies to ensure that their staff are safe from the pandemic.
Barclays has roughly 20,000 employees in India , but, over the last year or so, they have moved back some of their assignments to India.Barclays were not alone in their gesture, Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered are also making plans to ensure that their employees are vaccinated after the age restrictions were due to be lifted on May 1.
Ensuring employee and citizen safety
Employers in India are pulling out all stops to ensure that employee well-being and the health of their families are paramount in these stressful times. Veritable ‘war-rooms have been set up to source oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for those who have been infected.
Indian companies have also put their shoulder to the wheel to ensure that employee health remains of paramount importance in the face of an alleged short supply of beds, oxygen and vaccines. Tata Sons, Reliance Industries and JSW Steel ensured all forms of assistance ranging from airlifting of medical equipment, funding pledges to making medical oxygen.
Last Tuesday Amazon said it would ship 100 ICU ventilator units to India from the United States. It had earlier collaborated with other entities to airlift more than 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 ventilators from Singapore, relying on its global logistics network to hasten procurement. Google reached deep into its coffers to commit $18 million in new funding for India, including advertising support for public health campaigns.
Reliance has adjusted production at its oil refineries to produce hundreds of tonnes of oxygen for hard-hit areas such as Maharashtra, India's richest and worst-hit state.
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The Tata Group imported 24 cryogenic containers to transport liquid oxygen, while its Tata Steel unit ramped up oxygen supply.
In a deviation from manufacturing steel, JSW, India’s largest steelmaker by market value has diverted its resources to the manufacture of liquid oxygen. In this, they supplied 898 tonnes of oxygen each day from its plants, equivalent to about 13% of the combined daily demand for 6,785 tonnes of the life-saving gas in India's 20 worst-hit states.
India's Syngene International Ltd committed to delivering half-a-million vials of COVID-19 drug remdesivir through its local distribution partners next month, according to its top executive. Remdesivir has been identified as a drug that helps arrest the effects of the Covid-19 infection and ensures faster recuperation. Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Hunt said, “At the moment we are operating at near maximum capacity (to produce remdesivir). I'd expect the volume of drug that we are supplying into the Indian market to step up as we get into May," he added.
Essential drugs being distributed
Syngene, majority owned by biopharmaceutical company Biocon Ltd, is one of the seven Indian companies that have licensed remdesivir from US based Gilead Sciences Inc. The seven companies together have a total installed capacity of about 3.9 million units per month. Gilead has also announced handing over 450,000 vials of the drug to the Indian government.
Merck & Co Inc have also joined hands with five Indian generic drugmakers, including Cipla Ltd and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, to expand production and access to its experimental COVID-19 drug. The partnership, according to Merck, will give the companies license to supply Merck's molnupiravir to India and more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following approvals or emergency authorization by local regulatory agencies.
Replicating the ‘war-room’ scenario has been Indian based
technology service providers like Accenture and Wipro. Their teams are working 13-14 hours daily, under growing pressure and struggling to deliver on projects as staff call in sick and take time off to care for friends and relatives.
Wipro said about 3% of its 197,000-odd employees are currently working from office on critical projects. Wipro said it has made living arrangements at the company's guest houses and hotels close to its offices.
Infosys, India's second largest software services firm, said it was operating remotely across all offices.
Tata Consultancy Services, India's top information technology (IT) services firm, similarly said its operations had not been affected. India's gigantic IT and call centre service industry employs more than 4.5 million people directly and relies substantially on thousands of graduates under the age of 30 to roll out services.