Bollywood stars stepping up to help during India's Covid-19 crisis: 'We can do our bit'

Celebrities are using their fame and platforms to help as the country grapples with a deadly second wave of the coronavirus

Some of their peers were criticised for "flaunting" their holiday pictures as India grapples with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but many Bollywood stars are also using their celebrity to help out in the ongoing crisis.

From Priyanka Chopra's fundraisers to Salman Khan's food distribution for essential workers, stars are stepping up and doing their best as infected cases hit a record high of 401,993 on Saturday, three times the daily cases of the United States, the world's worst-hit country.

More than 215,542 have died from the coronavirus in India as the country's healthcare system is overstretched, and experts warn that the worst is yet to come.

On Friday, actor John Abraham handed over his Twitter and Instagram accounts to organisations working in Covid-19 relief to help connect with those that urgently need the help.

"Anything and everything to save lives and win this battle together," the actor and producer posted.

Here are all the other stars doing everything they can to lend a hand in the ongoing pandemic:

Priyanka Chopra Jonas 

The Bollywood and Hollywood star has been actively using her social media to share Covid-19 resources since the second wave began. On Friday, she and husband Nick Jonas launched a fundraiser, a partnership between the Priyanka Chopra Jonas Foundation and Give India.

"We are appealing to you all to contribute to the healthcare system which is at a breaking point right now. It's our humble request," the actress appeals in the video.

Husband Jonas adds: "The funds raised will go towards critical medical infrastructure, medical equipment and vaccination support."

Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna

Bollywood star Kumar, who's also been actively using his Twitter account to share resources and information, donated 10 million rupees ($133,810) to former Indian cricketer now politician Gautam Gambhir's foundation, which is helping distribute free food, medicines and much-needed oxygen to the needy.

The politician tweeted his gratitude in April.

"Every help in this gloom comes as a ray of hope. Thanks a lot @akshaykumar for committing Rs1 crore to #GGF for food, meds and oxygen for the needy! God bless," he posted.

Kumar, who was hospitalised earlier in April after testing positive for Covid-19, then responded: "These are really tough times, @GautamGambhir. Glad I could help. Wish we all get out of this crisis soon. Stay Safe."

The Bollywood actor, an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also donated 250 million rupees ($3.4 million) in 2020 to the PM Cares Fund at the beginning of the first outbreak.

Kumar's wife, the actress-turned-author Twinkle Khanna, also posted an update on Saturday, saying the couple have successfully secured 100 oxygen generators for those in need.

Khanna has also been actively using Twitter since the second wave began.

"A big shout out to all of you who joined in donating toward this good cause by Daivik Foundation. Here are the oxygen concentrators all ready to ship," she posted.

Salman Khan 

Last week, videos surfaced of the star sampling food before they were packed and sent out to frontline workers.

A member of Shiv Sena's youth wing, the political party co-ordinating the relief work with the star, told The Indian Express that Khan came to check the quality of food that has been sent out.

“Salman bhai [brother] has immense respect for frontline workers. His mother even sends handmade tiffin for the police personnel that has been stationed outside his house on security duty. So Salman bhai thought since the lockdown is going on and these workers are on duty 24/7, we should start sending food packets for them and try and make it easier for them," the member said.

Last year, Khan rallied his Bollywood friends to help send care packages to migrant workers stranded during coronavirus-imposed lockdowns.

Sonu Sood 

One of the most active actors helping out since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, Sood has been using his platform to assist in every way he can, from arranging beds for the sick to assisting with oxygen cylinders and life-saving injections. On Saturday, while appearing on the reality show Dance Deewane, he offered to provide food for an entire village until lockdowns were lifted.

A contestant, Uday Singh, a daily wage worker shared how everyone in his village was struggling to make ends meet since lockdowns were imposed.

Touched by his story, Sood said: "Uday, I want to tell the people in your village that the lockdown, whether it lasts for one month or two months or even six months, I will ensure that your entire village will keep getting rations. Tell them not to take tension, no one will go hungry there, no matter how long the lockdown continues."

The actor also started an initiative on the Telegram app called India Fights With Covid, which connects suppliers of medicines and oxygen with volunteers.

"We will join hands and save this country," he posted.

Sushmita Sen 

On April 22, the actress and former Miss Universe, tweeted an appeal, requesting for help to transport oxygen cylinders from Mumbai to Delhi.

"This is deeply heart breaking...oxygen crisis is everywhere. I have managed to organise a few oxygen cylinders for this hospital but have no way to transport it to Delhi from Mumbai...please help me find a way," Sen tweeted, along with a video about shortage of supplies at a hospital.

Soon, she was inundated with offers for help.

The next day, Sen posted an update. "Thanks to the help from our Twitter friend @shweta_jerry, the oxygen cylinders are finally enroute to Delhi Hospital from Mumbai! Shweta & her colleague went out of their way to make this possible overnight! Deeply grateful," she announced.

Alia Bhatt 

Having just recovered from Covid-19, the actress's social media timelines are now taken over by information and resources for help.

"It is a time of great uncertainty. Infrastructure and information are the need of the hour. We are limited in terms of what we can do for infrastructure, but we can do our bit to identify and amplify relevant information," Bhatt posted one week ago.

Shilpa Shetty 

The actress and fitness author posted an emotional video on her Instagram last week, sharing her partnership with Khaana Chahiye, an organisation that helps fight hunger.

"I usually share information to motivate you... But today, I need a lot of motivation. I'm not OK, none of us are. We are experiencing this inexplicable pain from all that's happening around us," Shetty posted, appealing to her fans and "friends in the industry" to help as much as they can.

"Let's start with becoming a catalyst," she implored.

John Abraham 

The actor and producer on Friday handed the reigns of his social media accounts to organisations helping with Covid-19 relief.

"All content posted on my handles will be exclusively to help those affected with the resources they require. It is time to extend ourselves to humanity and take measures to overcome this crisis," Abraham posted.

Ajay Devgn

The actor and director partnered with Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Council (BMC) to set up intensive care units for patients. Shortages of ICU beds have been documented across the country, with cities such as Delhi, a city of 20 million residents reporting just 22 intensive care beds available out of the total 4,594 beds.

Devgn, along with other producers helped raise 10 million rupees ($133,810), through his NY Foundations, to help the BMC build a 20-bed emergency facility at Mumbai's Shivaji Park.

Gurmeet Choudhary 

The TV actor announced last week he was going to open two hospitals in Patna and Lucknow, with more planned across the country.

"I have decided I will be opening ultra modern 1,000 bed hospital in Patna and Lucknow for the common man. Followed by other cities. Need your blessings and support," the actor, who contracted the virus last year, posted on Twitter.

Choudhary has also been extending help to patients across the country and supporting them with their plasma and oxygen needs as well as organising beds. According to news18.com, he's also formed a special team and posted numbers on social media so that people can reach him in case they need medicines.

Lata Mangeshkar 

On Sunday, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced singer Lata Mangeshkar has made a contribution of 700,000 rupees ($190,569) towards his Covid-19 relief fund.

"As part of social responsibility, Lata Mangeshkar has made a contribution of Rs 7 lakh. More and more citizens should come forward to contribute towards the cause," Thackeray said, as reported by the Economic Times
Maharashtra has been the country's worst hit state due to the coronavirus, accounting for about a quarter of India's 13.5 million cases.

The multiple award-winning Mangeshkar, 91, is one of the most respected singers in the country, having sung for more than 1,000 films in her more than seven decades in the industry.

Hrithik Roshan 

The Bollywood star joined global personalities including singers Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello to raise funds for podcaster and author Jay Shetty's Help India Breathe fundraiser. Roshan donated $15,000 towards the cause which ended up raising more than $3.6 million for Give India.

Vir Das

The comedian and actor has been helping out the best way he knows how – making people laugh. In this case, frontline workers. But Das has also helped raise more than 700,000 rupees ($9,457) through various charities. All proceeds for his next virtual shows on May 8 and 9, called #VirDasAtHome, will also go towards charities helping out in the crisis.

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