As India grapples with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic with infection numbers now topping 18.9 billion, social media has been flooded with appeals for assistance as medical systems are overwhelmed.
Help on Saturday came from one unlikely source – the fans of the record-breaking South Korean K-pop group BTS. Called BTS Army, the Indian arm of the band's fanbase announced it had raised more than 2 million rupees ($29,000) in just one day for its #CovidReliefForIndia campaign.
“Thank you everyone who donated and everyone who amplified this initiative. Right now we have crossed our initial goal and will extend it again soon,” @BangtanIndia tweeted on Saturday.
"As we have collected funds more than our initial plan we all are searching for more such initiatives/orgs which are working on ground level providing help in every way possible and are looking for financial help. We also need help from all of you to do research on your own for your region," it said.
Bangtan is a reference to the seven-member group BTS, which stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan or Bangtan Boys, the global K-pop phenomenon named by Time magazine last year as Entertainer of the Year.
On Friday, Bangtan India posted an appeal to BTS's global fanbase, saying it was requesting help to support community kitchens that serve Covid-19 patients and free oxygen and medical aid suppliers.
“As we know India is facing one of the worst second waves of Covid-19. Each passing day it's getting tougher on the health workers and front line workers. We ask ARMYs around the world to help us as it’s a helpless situation,” the group posted along with a donation link. It also announced that it had created a separate Twitter account @CovidReliefIn for the purpose, and shortlisted a number of organisations it was supporting.
In less than 24 hours, @CovidReliefIn announced it had already crossed its initial fundraising target.
“This has all been possible thanks to your generous donations and concentrated efforts, ARMY! this is all YOU! thank you so much for coming together and supporting us,” the account posted.
This is not the first time BTS Army in India has stepped in to raise funds for a cause. In 2020, as floods ravaged the North-East Indian state of Assam, another fan account @btshelpsindia helped raise more than $8,000 for relief.
Internationally too, the passionate fan base has stepped in with charitable activities, from helping Syrian refugees in Europe to donating cameras to students in Kenya and to safe drinking water projects in the US.
While the fan activities are not officially endorsed by the band, the members of BTS themselves have been actively involved in a number of causes.
In 2020, the group donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter cause, which, a day later was matched in value by BTS Army.
"We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence," BTS posted on Twitter in English and Korean. "You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter."