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Indian community looks to Covid-hit home with sadness

Local Sikh and Baha’i people thankful for solidarity as coronavirus runs riot in their homeland

SHANNON has a significant Indian community and its members have been watching with trepidation as Covid-19 spreads throughout their home country.
Paramjit Neote first arrived into Shannon 33 years ago, and established a factory, Shannon Aircraft Motorworks, which he subsequently sold.
Some of its employees formed the first wave of people from India to live locally.
“When we set up in 1988 there was huge unemployment here, but then things changed very quickly after the Gulf War and there weren’t people available, so we brought 15-20 families here to work for our company and that was the first batch of Indians that came to Shannon,” he recalls.
He said that Covid restrictions had become relaxed in India, which led to a huge spread of the virus.
“They had precautions like we have had here, social distancing, masks. But when things were under control they dropped their guard. They dropped social distancing, didn’t wear masks and there were gatherings.
“Recently the Indian variant has sparked off and it is causing clots in the lungs.”
Some relatives of his own have succumbed to the pandemic. “Yesterday we got news about one of our relative’s daughter, who was only 28. She was in hospital got treated, got oxygen and everything. But when she was okay and ready to be discharged, all of a sudden she got a clot. In the hospital they gave her oxygen but it wasn’t enough and she passed away.”
Another relative also died after having gone to hospital but was sent home as they had no place for him.
“He was told to get oxygen, but by the time it arrived it was too late and he passed away. When they wanted to get the ambulance to take the body to the mortuary, ambulances weren’t there or if they were there they’d be charging an arm and a leg for a 10km journey. They were charging 60,000 rupees, about €1,000.”
Paramjit said that people have been abandoning bodies at cremation sites, because they don’t have the funds left to pay for the wood required to incinerate the remains.
“It’s desperate. There is no social welfare there, the hospital system there isn’t like here, where they take care of you first. There you have to pay up front and if you don’t have the money they don’t take you.”
While Ireland has tried to help, there is little it can do given the scale of the problem there.
“Ireland has sent 7,000 oxygen cylinders, they were sent from Dublin. But India is such a large country that it’s a drop in the ocean. It wasn’t prepared and it spread like wildfire. It’s still not under control. People who can afford it are getting looked after and go to hospital. Hospitals are full so you have to pay a premium price for a bed there. People have no work, a lot of people have no money.”
There is quite a large Indian community locally now, he says.
“In Shannon alone I would say there are about 200 families, you have the Free Zone and a lot of people are working in IT, mostly from the South. There are a lot of workers.”
The local Sikh and Baha’i communities have had online prayer services in recent times, while they have expressed gratitude for the solidarity shown towards them.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.