coronavirus Latest News

How Indian-Americans shaped US response to India’s 2nd wave

By Frank F Islam

The United States has provided aid worth at least half-a-billion dollars since the devastating second wave of Covid-19 struck India. US tech and financial companies such as Google, Microsoft, MasterCard and others have donated money, medicine and medical devices to India to combat the virus.

A lot of the credit for this must go to the Indian-American community, whose response has been extraordinary. Apart from raising money, Indian-Americans also put pressure on the political establishment right from the Oval Office down to statehouses to urge them to send aid to India.

As a result of these efforts, the Joe Biden administration backed New Delhi’s call for temporarily waiving the intellectual property rights of Covid vaccines, which, partially, opens the door to allow India to produce them locally.

The Indian-American community’s response has been two-layered: One within the community and the other focused on mainstream America.

At the grassroots level, various community organisations representing the large Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali and Malayali communities primarily raised funds for the various regions to which they belong. At the national level, organisations such as the American India Foundation, Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Indiaspora and Sewa International have led the mobilisation efforts.

Those speaking on behalf of India have included Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, both of whom announced multi-million-dollar packages on behalf of their respective organisations. Indian-American lawmakers such as Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi called for help not just on humanitarian grounds, but also to ensure US national security. Indian-American public health experts such as Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, chipped in with explaining the dangers of the new variants, what India needed, and what the US could do.

In my five decades in the US, I have never seen the community step up in such large numbers. In the past, they have indeed helped in the aftermath of natural disasters in India. They have also helped out when India’s national interests were at stake, lobbying to mobilise support for the country. This included efforts following the US sanctions against India after the 1998 nuclear tests, and prior to the signing of the historic US-India Civil Nuclear Deal in 2008.

There are two reasons why the Covid-19 relief efforts have been more successful and are being sustained now. Unlike relief efforts in the past, this time around, India was dealing with a pandemic of which the US is intimately aware. It did not require any hard-selling. The second major difference is the growing size and prominence of the Indian-American community.

In 2001, when the Gujarat earthquake struck, the Indian-American population stood at 1.7 million and there were very few Indian-Americans in leadership positions. This is no longer the case. Members of the Indian-American population, almost four million now, are leaders in business, politics, academia and health care, among other fields.

With its leadership in mobilising America’s efforts to help combat the pandemic in India, the Indian-American community has demonstrated what it can accomplish when it comes together for a common purpose. It has also demonstrated that although the community has made great progress, this is just a fraction of what it can achieve. There are many stories waiting for the Indian American community to script, as it continues to help India in its hour of dire need.

(The article appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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Latest News USA

$1 M grant from Wadhwani Foundation for Covid-19 impacted Indian families

The Wadhwani Foundation (WF) on May 17 announced that it would donate $1 million in grants to ten charities and NGOs to help alleviate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in India. These grants provide medical resources and assistance to COVID-19 patients and their families.

“Combatting the severe rise in COVID-19 cases and the tremendous burden on Indian families requires a comprehensive approach from as many organizations as possible. Wadhwani Foundation can help alleviate some of the suffering Indian families are enduring through aid to charities and organizations providing ‘last mile” immediate relief in areas of most need, said Padma Shri Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, Founder and Chairman of Wadhwani Foundation.

For phase 1 of these grants, Wadhwani Foundation has selected the following charities and partners:

Wadhwani Foundation established a set of criteria to select charities/NGOs based on the ability to deliver immediate impact to patients and families and measure the impact of the relief. These include:

  • The ability to immediately reduce the devastating impact and slow COVID-19 spread in India over the next month by providing medical resources to clinics or homes

  • Deliver direct relief benefits, including medical assistance, food, and loans/grants to affected patients and families

  • Organizations with more than five years of experience in the healthcare, basic-needs support space with highly developed existing infrastructure to immediately deploy to target groups

  • The ability to provide high transparency, reporting, and governance and quantify the impact of assistance

  • Be recognized as a registered charity in the country of operation

Employee Sourced and Supported
The selection of charities and NGOs based on these criteria was aided by employees at both Wadhwani Foundation and SymphonyAI, the US-based enterprise AI company founded by Dr. Wadhwani. The initial five recipients were selected after review and analysis by Wadhwani Foundation leaders. The additional charity/NGO recipients will be determined within days. In addition to these grants, Wadhwani Foundation will match donations to any of the supported charities/NGOs by any SymphonyAI or Wadhwani Foundation employees through September 1, 2021.

This grant program follows the Sahayata initiative by Wadhwani Foundation to deliver skilling and innovation programs to help small and medium enterprises and public health workers through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sahayata initiative was announced in July 2020 in India and November 2020 in Mexico.

Wadhwani Foundation was founded in 2000 by Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, with the primary mission of accelerating job creation in India and other emerging economies through large-scale initiatives in entrepreneurship, small business growth, innovation, and skilling. The Wadhwani Foundation operates in 20 countries, including India, South East Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines), East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda), Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia), West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana), Egypt, and Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile). The Wadhwani Foundation works in partnership with governments, foundations, corporations, and educational institutes. For more details on Wadhwani Foundation, please visit

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Latest News USA

US’ Covid help to India touches half a billion dollars

Less than a fortnight after President Joe Biden in his conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged his country’s steadfast support for the people of India, America has responded with an unprecedented financial assistance worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Biden spoke at length with Modi last month and conveyed solidarity with India in its fight against the viral disease. He assured the prime minister that the US and India will work closely together in the fight against Covid-19.

Reflecting an overwhelming support for a “natural ally”, the entire country, not only the administration, but also the corporate sector which created a global task force, as well as Americans and Indian-Americans have opened their coffers for India.

This half a billion dollars includes $100 million pledged by the Biden administration, $70 million by pharma major Pfizer and 450,000 Remdesivir doses, the governmental purchase price of each of which in the US is $390.

Thousands of oxygen concentrators and plane-loads of life-saving drugs and health care equipment are flying off the US for India almost every day.

Several companies like Boeing and Mastercard have announced financial assistance worth $10 million each, Google has pledged $18 million, while the Global Task Force that comprises CEOs of top American companies has already pledged $30 million worth of life saving equipment.

Describing it as a “Berlin Life Moment”, Mukesh Aghi of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), told PTI he expects the assistance to touch almost $1 billion by the end of the month. “It is emotional for the diaspora, almost everyone has someone who has been touched by Covid-19,” he said.

Nisha Desai Biswal, president of US India Business Council (USIBC), said, “The outpouring of support from the US over the past two weeks was a spontaneous mass mobilization of support for the Indian people from across the America government, business community and diaspora community and the American people.”

“It is unprecedented, and it reflects both the deep bonds between our two countries and the gratitude that Americans feel for the role India played in supporting the US when we were experiencing our Covid surge last year,” she said.

However, given the “speed and severity” that have overwhelmed the capacity of hospitals and local authorities, more assistance will be needed and for a sustained period of time scale of the pandemic, Biswal said.

People of the country and the diaspora too have come out in large numbers. Indian-American Vinod Khosla has committed $10 million, top corporate leader John T Chambers has promised $1 million.

For the first time in its history, Sewa International has raised $15 million; American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) ($3.6 million), Indiaspora ($2.5 million) and Jai Shetty has raised $4 million.

“There has been overwhelming support and offers of assistance from the US Government, private sector, diaspora and the American public at large. In fact, in my interactions in recent days, the US interlocutors across the board ask me, ‘tell us what more we can do for India’,” India’s ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu told PTI.

Among other major financial contributions announced include Procter and Gamble ($6.7 million); Merck ($5 million), Walmart ($2 million), Salesforce ($2.4 million), and Caterpillar ($3.4 million). Companies like Deloitte have announced 12,000 oxygen concentrators for India.

While Microsoft is partnering with the US government in providing aid and oxygen, FedEx and UPS have taken up the mantle of taking care of the transportation of life saving health care equipment like oxygen cylinders, ventilators and oxygen concentrators to India.

On Sunday, Indian-Americans from Tamil Nadu including eminent philanthropist M R Rangaswami, held a “Help Tamil Nadu Breathe” to raise $1.5 million in a few hours.

“This is an incredible outpouring of generosity, which people have come to expect from America. When the world has a crisis, beyond politics, beyond dispute, America steps up,” Rangaswami said.

“It is comforting to see US cargo jets with much needed medical supplies landing at Delhi airport regularly,” said Karun Rishi, president of the USA-India Chambers of Commerce.

Noting that the stakes are very high for the entire world, he said India’s success or failure to come out of this once-in-a-century crisis will have a direct impact throughout the world.

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Latest News USA

Indiaspora opens platform for India COVID-19 relief efforts

Indiaspora, a nonprofit community of global Indian diaspora leaders, announced May 3 they will be officially launching their giving platform for the public to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts in India after raising an initial $1 million last week through their network of Indiaspora members.

“Our hope is that this urgent ChaloGive campaign for India will inspire the broader community to give generously and support India’s fight against COVID-19. The scale and magnitude of the situation in India is currently beyond any one person or any one group’s ability to tackle,” said Ashish Shah, Senior Director, Philanthropy and Community Engagement at Indiaspora. “We need the force of our entire diaspora behind COVID-19 relief efforts in India so that we can make the biggest impact possible. The need is of enormous proportions.”

The grassroots initiative ChaloGive for India will facilitate donations to trusted and vetted high-impact nonprofits that are working on the ground during the second wave of COVID-19 relief.

Visitors to will have an option to give toward three major areas of COVID-19 relief: the creation of urgently needed COVID care centers and makeshift hospitals through nonprofit WISH Foundation, direct cash transfer to families who have lost a primary earning member through nonprofit GiveIndia, and food relief and livelihood assistance for migrant workers and other underserved populations through EdelGive Foundation to nonprofits Goonj and Jan Sahas.

Donors from anywhere in the world can either choose one area to donate to, or make a contribution that will be evenly split between the three areas listed. U.S. donors also will receive a tax exemption.

 “India needs all the help it can get and many I know are impacted. This is the time for all of us who can to give generously,” said Indiaspora member, Jay Vijayan, founder and CEO of California-based Tekion Corporation, who donated toward the campaign.

Visit for additional information and resources.

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India Latest News

200 Indian-origin people in top leadership positions in governments of 15 countries: Indiaspora report

Washington, DC: More than 200 Indian-origin people occupy leadership positions in as many as 15 countries, including the US and the UK, building a legacy for future generations, according to a first-of-its-kind list by a US-based organization working among the Indian diaspora.

The 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List, which was released on Monday, had drawn from government websites and other publicly-available resources to prepare the report to showcase the achievements of the community leaders across different sectors.

It said that more than 200 leaders of Indian heritage have ascended to the highest echelons of public service in 15 countries across the globe, with over 60 of them holding Cabinet positions.

“It is a huge source of pride to have the first woman and first person of color as the Vice President of the world’s oldest democracy be someone of Indian heritage. We wanted to use this seminal moment on Presidents’ Day to highlight a host of others in the diaspora who also are in public service,” said Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and investor.

He was referring to Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President of the United States.

“These leaders are building a legacy for future generations, and one that extends beyond our community to all of the constituents and communities that they serve,” Rangaswami said in a statement.

The list also includes diplomats, legislators, heads of central banks and senior civil servants from countries with significant histories of diaspora migration, such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It is an honou to be included on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List. As the longest-serving Indian-American member of Congress, I am proud to be a leader in the Indian-American community, which has become an integral part of American life and society,” said Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia.

With more than 32 million people of Indian-origin or (PIOs) globally, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Indians are the largest diaspora population in the world.

The officials on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List collectively represent more than 587 million constituents, and their countries account for an estimated $ 28 trillion in GDP, demonstrating the impact these leaders are having globally, Indiaspora said in a statement.

“It truly is inspiring to note the remarkable contribution that government leaders of Indian heritage have made to advance the societies that they now represent.

“For a sizable segment of the population, it is government policy addressing social injustices that lead to a transformative path of sustainable socio-economic progress,” said Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister of Education, Heritage, and Arts.

The list includes immigrants from India, as well as professionals born in countries such as Singapore, South Africa, England, Canada and the US.

“As a proud Indo-Canadian, it is an honor to be included in the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List alongside an accomplished and diverse group of leaders from the India diaspora,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar.

“I am eternally proud of my Indian heritage but also being Canadian. Canada has given me its protection and its opportunities, and in return, I am committed to making it a better place so that it continues to be a land of protection and opportunity for future Canadians,” he said.

While some of the officials are part of their country’s first wave of immigration, arriving as refugees or for economic opportunities, others serving in their governments are part of subsequent waves of diaspora, who came for educational opportunities, or are of subsequent generations, Indiaspora said.

“It is inspiring to see the number of Indian diaspora who are entering the public arena,” said Indiaspora Board Member Arun Kumar, chairman and CEO at KPMG India, who served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration.

“Having had the opportunity to serve, I can speak to what a memorable and fulfilling experience it was. Above all, it was a meaningful way to give back. My hope is that this cohort of leaders will set an example for even more of the Indian diaspora to aspire to public service,” Kumar added.  

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Latest News New York

HungerMitao honors Rakesh Bhargava as Ambassador of Year 2020

New York: Food Bank For New York City’s HungerMitao celebrated volunteers and mobilized the Indian American community recently at its “Evening of Gratitude and Awards.” Community leaders and volunteers were joined by Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, actor Omi Vaidya, and Virtual Arts for Humanity for a night of celebration and advocacy.

The awardees were honored for their commitment and efforts through HungerMitao to end hunger in the city. Aaliya Malhotra and Ria Laddha were celebrated as Young Changemakers and Rakesh Bhargava for being a true Ambassador. The HungerMitao Spirit of the Community Award across the Feeding America network went to Indiaspora.

In his acceptance message, Rakesh Bhargava quoted his spiritual master Gurudev, “Live your life by way of learning, earning, and returning.”  He added: “We all must give back to the communities we live in and help the needy. I chose to accept this not for an individual recognition but to support a larger issue – hunger that pervades our society.  One of the richest nations on earth wastes more than 40% of food it produces yet millions are deprived of food.”

Bhargava also requested Food Bank to focus on healthy food. Research has shown that a plant-based diet is healthier and can reduce or eliminate many diseases that are killing Americans in large numbers.

Food Bank’s HungerMitao was created to mobilize New York’s Indian American community around its mission to end hunger, from raising awareness to providing meals for those in need. Since its inception, HungerMitao has helped Food Bank distribute more than 4 million meals to New York’s low-income families.

Accompanied by wife, Meenu, Rakesh Bhargava accepted the award virtually. (Screengrab from video)
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Latest News USA

Indian Americans to welcome Biden-Harris with Kolam on inauguration day

To welcome President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on inauguration day (January 20), Indian Americans are making thousands of kolam tiles at the US Capitol to help heal the divide.

“Some beauty after the chaos: in front of the U.S. Capitol Thursday, thousands of kolam tiles are being made to welcome @JoeBiden @KamalaHarris later this month,” tweeted IndiasporaForum.

Earlier, Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building last week and clashed with police when Congress was in session to validate Biden’s presidential win in November elections. Indians believe that kolam can help in healing the divide and solve the problem.

“Many believe kolams can help heal divides and welcome what’s next. #2021kolam @2021Kolam” tweeted the Forum.

A kolam is an Indian art form of geometric patterns, used as a sign of welcome. Drawn outside homes, the beautiful designs made of dots and lines provide a sense of joy and calm to all who enter.

Traditionally hand-drawn with rice flour, kolams are inclusive and eco-friendly. The dots on a kolam depict hardships in life, and the lines drawn around the dots represent the way we navigate around our struggles and turn our lives into a beautiful mosaic work of art.

The Forum believes that it will solve problems and foster the beautiful patterns of diversity and inclusivity in America. (ANI)

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Latest News USA

Indian community a force to reckon with: post-poll discussion

By Surekha Vijh

Washington: With all four Indian American lawmakers – Dr Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi – getting re-elected to the House of Representatives, and Kamala Harris  Vice President Elect, Indian community is now a force to reckon with.

In a nationwide post-election meet, dozens of elected leaders on the federal and state levels, political and policy experts, community advocates and organizers  came together for a post-election analysis on November 4-5.

It was organized by Indiaspora for community-building for Indian Americans. MR Rangaswami, Founder of Indiaspora, and Executive Director, Sanjeev Joshipura, hosted two score guests to speak on the four-hour virtual show.

Rep. Ami Bera, who has won a 5th term to the House, said Indian Americans have come a long way. He called for urgent talks to stabilize our economy, open businesses and schools and boost people’s morale.

Rep Pramila Jayapal said it was time to heal the nation. The country was torn apart with many burning issues and people needed to get back to their normal lives. Covid was a serious threat and needed to be taken seriously until we have a vaccine available.

Rep Raja Krishnamoorthy pointed to the need to fix the economy, in particular the devastated motel, hotel, airlines, and hospitality industry. Many Indian Americans were badly hurt due to the collapse of the hotel and motel industry.

Nisha Biswal, President of the U.S.-India Business Council,  said the country was divided on many levels and first needed to be healed. She said India-US relations were pretty good and will remain the same if not become better. Change of regime will not change anything. PM Modi has already met Joe Biden when he was vice president.

Richard Verma, former US Ambassador to India, said India-US relations were at a peak. He praised the Indian American community for bringing the two countries together. In a short time, the community has become a major force to reckon with, both economically and politically.

The speakers agreed that in this presidential election, the Indian American community was given due importance for the first time. Both the Democrat and  Republican campaigns tried to woo the 1.8 million members of the community who emerged as  a critical voting bloc in the battleground states.

Elected State officials and candidates taking part in discussion included Rep. Niraj Antani (OH), Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (NC), Assembly member Ash Kalra (CA), Kesha Ram (VT), Ronnie Chatterji (NC), Sri Preston Kulkarni (TX), Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (VA), Sen. Manka Dhingra (WA) who all looked forward to working with the new president and his team.



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Latest News USA

Enacte Arts presents virtual adaptation of ‘Letters to a daughter from prison’

San Francisco: Bay Area-based EnActe Arts has announced a virtual adaptation of Letters to a Daughter from Prison, a play by Lavonne Mueller based on the letters between Jawaharlal Nehru and his adolescent daughter Indira, written between 1930 and 1942, before he became India’s first Prime Minister. The original play made its debut in 1988 during the first International Festival of the Arts in New York City before going on to tour India. It has been adapted for this production by Deesh Mariwala (Director), Denzil Smith and Vinita Sud Belani (Founder and Artistic Director of EnActe Arts). 

Set against the backdrop of the freedom struggle and Gandhi’s non-violent protests, the play reveals the richness of the father daughter relationship in the formative years, before her eventual emergence on the world stage, as Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, told through the exchange of letters between them during his numerous imprisonments for his role as a leader of the Indian independence movement while she was growing up. One of which included the prophetic line, ‘Little one, may you grow up into a brave soldier in India’s service!’

The playwright was inspired to write the story because Nehru the statesman was being continually separated from his shy, intellectual daughter Indira due to the turmoil that came with the freeing and building of the world’s largest democracy. “They forged the bonds of a loving, nurturing and formative relationship through their detailed, prolific letters to each other. I felt compelled to write this story because I could not find a parallel in the Western world of a statesman father who nurtured his daughter in such a way.” 

Notes the play’s director Deesh Mariwala: “Funnily enough what started as a delving into the lives of two Prime Ministers who shaped the land I grew up in, has become a warm, companionable relationship with two people I have never met, but now feel I know almost intimately.”

Letters to a Daughter from Prison is a co-production of EnActe Arts and Stagesmith Productions.

It is partially sponsored by and is being co-presented by Indiaspora, ICC (India Community Centre, Silicon Valley) and DIAC (Dallas Indian Arts Collective, Texas).

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