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Cardinal leads pandemic fight in India's worst-hit state

Maharashtra has recorded 4,500 Covid-19 cases, with most in the slums of capital Mumbai

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: April 21, 2020 05:56 AM GMT

Updated: April 21, 2020 06:27 AM GMT

Cardinal leads pandemic fight in India's worst-hit state

Two young Catholic volunteers hand over food to a needy woman in Mumbai city, where a Covid-19 lockdown has left thousands of people jobless and hungry. (Photo supplied)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay has taken steps to check the spread of Covid-19 in the capital of Maharashtra, the worst-hit Indian state.

A critical effort of his archdiocese based in capital Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is to house and feed thousands of migrant laborers who have become jobless since a lockdown was imposed on March 24.

All 124 parishes in the archdiocese are providing food to needy people in their area. “Together roughly some 7,000 people are given food twice daily,” said archdiocesan spokesman Father Nigel Barrett on April 21.

Cardinal Gracias and other Christian leaders wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27 offering the Church’s readiness to provide its facilities in the fight against the pandemic.

Three church institutions in Mumbai are now housing 200 migrant people who became stranded after all means of transport were stopped as part of the lockdown.

“We are ready to accommodate more people because we have facilities,” Father Barrett said.

Prime Minister Modi held a video conference with health workers, Cardinal Gracias, Caritas India leaders and Catholic Health Association of India officials.

Cardinal Gracias also participated in another video conference on April 2 that the Prime Minister’s Office held to discuss the plight of migrant workers.

Following that conference, the cardinal also discussed with Mumbai officials the "immediate problem" of assisting migrant workers, Father Barrett said.

Cardinal Gracias has set up a crisis management team in the archdiocese “to analyze and daily respond to the changing scenario swiftly,” the priest said.
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Maharashtra has recorded some 4,500 of the 17,000 positive Codi-19 cases in India. Several pockets of Mumbai, infamous for its cramped slums, are also identified as hotspots.

India's initial 21-day lockdown was due to end on April 14 but the government extended it to May 3, hitting daily wage workers who lost their earnings.

The archdiocese has also launched “an outreach to tribal and daily wage workers through its network” of partner organizations in districts such as Raigad, Thane and Mumbai, Father Barrett said. It helps some 5,000 families and more than 100,000 people. 

He said the pandemic has forced them to take “utmost care and precaution” in food deliveries, which are done in collaboration with local government authorities.

“This battle is not an easy one. But we stand united, armed with faith that we shall overcome,” Father Barrett said.

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