SP Singh Oberoi-Pledged to the service of mankind till eternity : Bipin Sharma
While many top business honchos indulge in philanthropy as a part of their customary CSR activities, Dubai based Indian businessman SP Singh Oberoi has been passionately devoting a great deal of time towards various sorts of altruistic acts as it has been an indispensable part of his life. Through his international charitable trust named “Sarbat Da Bhala” which means “May everyone be blessed”, he has been involved in various humanitarian missions since the last three decades.
Oberoi shot to fame when he gave the blood money for saving the lives of 17 Indian youths that had been handed the death sentence by a Sharjah civil court for murdering a Pakistan based man some years ago.
For his Samaritan acts, he is often referred to as the “Divine Emissary” by his friends, well wishers and admirers. Needless to say, his only religion is humanity and redeeming those in suffering.
Albeit he had a humble beginning when he set afoot in Dubai, it was his vision and sheer hard struggle that saw him set up the Apex Group of Companies. As the chairman of the famous business group of Dubai, Oberoi has accomplished many milestones in his career, and has been felicitated for his outstanding achievements at various forums all over the world.
However what really sets him apart from others is that he has unremittingly managed to maintain a harmony between philanthropy and his professional duties despite having an extremely hectic schedule for the last many years.
As a matter of fact, there have been days when he has had to delegate his business duties to his team members due to his prior commitments for humanitarian missions. His close aids inform that they have lost count of the occasions when business took a backseat. Money is the last thing on Oberoi’s mind as what really matters to him is being an instrument for bringing a smile on the faces of the despondent, the destitute, and the economically oppressed beings.
As luck would have it, the ambit of Oberoi’s altruism is quite wide, and not limited to few areas. It has indubitably been his magnanimity and open minded policy that he has been to impact the lives of countless people in suffering and distress all around the world in the last three decades. People feel secure when Oberoi’s around as they know that their grievances and problems will get addressed with his support.
After having launched Sarbat Da Bhala (SDB) offices in all districts of Punjab, Sarsa in Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir (Baramulla and Srinagar), 12 offices in Europe, Asia, USA and Canada, Oberoi inspired his brother Kanwarjeet Singh Kocchar to launch the Delhi Chapter of his international charitable institution.
By end of 2014, Oberoi has plans to launch 25 worldwide as well as 40 Indian offices of Sarbat Da Bhala (SDB).
SDB has in the last many years of its existence played a momentous role in rehabilitating the old and the sick, the widows, economically weaker sections of the society, the orphans and the handicapped.
There have been times when Oberoi has had to fly twice a week for ensuring the swift expediting of public welfare works, and he’s done of all that ardently and sportingly.
His inspiring presence makes all the difference in the world, and numerous projects that were either moving at a snail’s pace, or had some other issues, got going when he intervened.
Oberoi is all set to give the education sector a new dimension through the Delhi Chapter of Sarbat Da Bhala, and it includes giving due pertinence to the issue of sanitation and toilets for the corporation managed schools.
Sharing his special plans for the Delhi Chapter, Oberoi says, “We wish to devote and dedicate a major portion of our time and efforts in the year 2015 towards improvising the educational sector. However, it would be imprudent if we proceed in our mission without paying heed to the burning issue of schools lacking in basic sanitation facilities such as toilets. There are countless of city as well as rural based schools that either have dysfunctional toilets, or have scanty number of toilets compared to the total strength of the student population of the school. We are in the process of identifying different schools that have a decrepit sanitation system, or just don’t have toilets at all for students. We are roping in a team of experts who will undertake revamping the toilets and other sanitation amenities in different schools all over the city. We have joined hands with Indian Institute of Ecology and Environment (IIEE) that have been in the forefront since the past four decades been crusading for the cause of protecting the environment and improving the sanitation facilities in city and rural based corporation managed schools. As part of our newly launched ‘MOTI’ campaign which connotes ‘Millions of Toilets in India and my friend Prof Trivedi’s “Cleanliness, Hygiene and Sanitation Education” (CHASE) Project under the aegis of the IIEE, we wish to make a marked difference to the lives of young children especially girls enrolled in schools with a crumbled infrastructure. Through the concept of MOTI and CHASE, we will also be encouraging the prestigious schools of Delhi to adopt atleast one or two schools lacking the basic sanitation facilities. We would collaborate with the MPs of the seven different constituencies of the capital city as well as the Mayors of the three city based municipal corporations to see that we are jointly able to do something substantial by May 2015. We will also be motivating corporate houses and small medium entrepreneurs to do their bit towards improving the sordid sanitation picture of the corporation schools. We take pride that when it comes to shouldering the responsibility, or leading from the front, we just don’t hesitate. For that matter, we are ready to show the way by wielding the broom, for inspiring our dear brothers and sisters for participating in this noble cause.
If our dynamic Prime Minister can do it, why can’t millions of others pledge themselves for transforming Delhi into a clean and beautiful city. What sets charismatic leaders like PM Narendra Modi and Prof PR Trivedi apart from others is that they lead by example.
It is heartening to see the PM Modi giving top most priority to the issue of cleanliness and sanitation.
History was re-written when on the auspicious occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday on 2nd October, 2014, Modi set an unprecedented benchmark by walking the talk by being the first PM to wield the broom.
During my childhood, we often participated in cleanliness drives wherein children along with elders voluntarily took to cleaning their surroundings and the adjoining streets. Sardonically, with passage of time, this spirit started waning as citizens thought that cleaning was only the prerogative of the safai karamcharis and no one else.
Sarbat Da Bhala volunteers took active role in cleaning the capital city on 2nd October, 2014 along with Prof Trivedi, a world renowned educationist and an institution builder who had incidentally launched the Clean Delhi Campaign as a part of his Clean up The Earth (CUTE) campaign twenty years ago on 2nd October, 1994.
The initiative was a grand success as we were able to inspire myriads of distinguished personalities for cleaning their city.
Although the newly sworn Modi government has miles to go, the Indian PM in particular, deserves plaudits for having made a thumping beginning by according top level priority to the germane issue of providing toilets for public convenience. Taking a leaf out of the PM books, Sarbat Da Bhala Delhi Chapter too has set a realistic target of one year for ensuring that the girl’s schools are equipped with toilets in this period.
While critics or the naysayers might say that it is incumbent on the part of the government of the day to provide basic amenities to the student commune in the government schools, and not anyone else, I for one, staunchly believe that citizens have a definitive role to play in the ensuring the progress and development of the nation. People’s Power has been the secret behind the success of any prosperous nation, and we should all bear this in mind if we nurture a desire to transform India into a developed nation.
As there are numerous challenges lying ahead, it is time for citizens to play some substantial role or the other, besides their day to day occupational activities, in the development of the nation.
By doing so, the citizens would not only become actual Bhagidars in the development of their locality, city, and nation as a whole, but also ensure the swift execution of the long impending developmental works.
The era of blaming the authorities and the government is passe! Merely having a wait, watch and criticize policy too won’t suffice, and in fact, would only have a detrimental effect!!
“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going” goes the ageless adage. Implying that in grave matters such as providing basic sanitation facilities and playing grounds to the children, the intelligentsia too should not refrain from playing their role, and thus becoming vehicles for driving plans into action mode.
The Delhi Chapter of Sarbat Da Bhala is all set to launch a massive campaign to make the city clean. We will be organizing cleanliness campaigns through community participation to ensure an environment free of solid waste, by creating garbage disposal systems and biogas plants. This will help in making citizens conscious about maintaining high-standards for their respective areas, and inspire them to refrain from reckless littering.
As the Managing Trustee of Sarbat Da Bhala, I have pledged both my time and expertize for the larger than life cause of issues such as guaranteeing basic sanitation amenities like toilets and playing grounds to the citizens. It is time to take the Bhagidari movement to be next level. Citizens have to turn into activists in the crusade for correcting the lacunas in the existing system. The need of the hour is to engage the services of the likeminded beings in the developmental works so as to ensure the basic possible amenities like toilets to the tender members of our society-our children. Petty politics needs to be kept at bay, and the sheer focus has to be on the swift implementation of the rudimentary tasks. Like we do no obligation by casting our vote during elections, we would not be obliging anyone, by playing our role in the actual development process. Since lot of things need to be set in order in our house, it becomes imperative for all of us to take a pledge that we will henceforth, devote quality time and efforts towards our nation, and the city we reside in. Let me assure that once the desired results start coming in, the credit of the development would go to the citizens first, and then anyone else. If the brains behind the ALS Ice bucket challenge could make it such a global phenomenon on the social media, why can’t passionate beings make ‘Mission Toilets and Playing Grounds’ a mass movement, and consequently, a reality. It would make great sense if the citizens and the distinguished personalities of our motherland pose for a photo ops next to a ‘Toilet’ which has been built or revamped, as a result of their assiduous efforts, or for that matter, have their ‘selfies’ clicked on a ‘playing ground’ that has been made available to the rightful custodians-the citizens due to their painstaking efforts. It is appalling to see countless of citizens being deprived of the basic sanitation amenities which is why we must collectively congregate on one medium to unleash a long lasting solution in this regard.”
Both I and Prof Trivedi are all geared up to meet the top ranked politicians, government representatives, and the civic authorities for formalizing the final strategy, and will be submitting a comprehensive ‘Plan of Action Model’ in this context.
Though the government is working out a modality for the corporates to contribute towards building new toilets, or revamping the decrepit ones, both I and Prof Trivedi believe that it is the work on ‘ground zero’ which will eventually yield the results.”
Dr RK Tuli, a global pioneer in the field of holistic medicine, is confident that the initiative undertaken by SP Singh Oberoi and Prof Trivedi will go a long way in setting an unprecedented benchmark in the Bhagidari between the citizens and the government. I am optimistic that the new Union Health Minister would incorporate their pragmatic plans, and accordingly offer them all the backend support. The combined efforts of the government officials and volunteers like Prof Trivedi can do wonders in bringing about a paradigm shift in the existing sanitation amenities in the city based municipal corporation schools, and those in the rural areas. How can you expect the child to fare well in the academics if they are being deprived of the basic hygiene facilities in their schools? If the toilet-student ratio of a school is disproportional, the students are bound to feel uneasy, and this will subsequently, have an adverse bearing on their concentration and the performance levels. Thus foremost of all, the schools must be equipped with fully functional toilets, proportionate to the student population of the school. All the other factors can thereafter be addressed. Kudos to Oberoi and Prof Trivedi for this incredible initiative.”
Equally endearing has been the issue of girl child empowerment for Oberoi who reckons that the best way to realize this mission would not only be by providing them primary and secondary education, but also by ensuring them vocation and skill based education so as to ensure jobs for them once they have successfully completed their education. He has relentlessly expressed his opinion on various public forums about the grave need for making girls financially independent so as to prevent them from being oppressed by any section of the society at any stage of their lives. In tandem with the leading health specialists from different fields, he wishes to launch free health camps for girls and women in different parts of the city.
As for the present day educational system, Oberoi feels that there are many lacunas that need to be addressed.
Oberoi dons many hats namely, a successful entrepreneur, doting husband and a father, philanthropist, and above all a ‘harbinger of excellence’ who is relentless in his pursuit of scaling new peaks.
In a ‘no holds barred’ tete a tete with journalist Bipin Sharma, SP Singh Oberoi Chairman Apex Group of Companies shares some interesting facts and insights about his philanthropic activities and projects that he has been associated with, since the last three decades:
SP Singh Oberoi:
When it comes to philanthropy or altruism, there should be no caste, creed or religious barrier. I take pride to inform that in the last three decades or so, my charitable organization has been absolutely fair in offering their services and timely help irrespective of the nature of one’s problem, or for that matter, irrespective of one’s caste, creed or religion.
As the founder of Sarbat Da Bhala, I have myself been physically present on numerous occasions to ensure that our help goes to the deserving and the genuinely needy ones. Be it the rehabilitation of widows, the destitute and the orphans, or the handicapped, we leave no stone unturned in providing timely help and support to those in suffering and agony. We have organized and arranged more than 19,000 marriages of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim girls. As regards education for Special Children, we constructed a School for Special Needs Children (mentally challenged) near Patiala that caters to around 200 students. A hostel has been constructed for 100 special needs students. We have formulated a structure where 25 teachers will get awarded with a Diploma qualification for special needs children every year, while 33 teachers will get awarded with a B.Ed for special needs children affiliated with the Punjabi University Patiala. Hostel accommodation for 300 deaf and dumb boys and girls students is there on the one acre land purchased by Sarbat Da Bhala Trust Patiala. Additionally, we have sponsored more than 1200 students for their Higher Education such as Medical, Engineering, Teaching, Civil Services, Doctorate, B.Tech, M. Tech etc. We have also sponsored about 400 students for their Primary Education. The SDB budget of 2014 is to sponsor 1500 students. SDB has adopted 40 Nepali orphan children, and is presently constructing a special Centre for about 100 children in Kathmandu, Nepal. It plans to take care of their education, lodging and boarding. SDB has been providing monthly financial support to 2500 children from slum areas, and taking care of their education as well as the major meals.
Sarbat Da Bhala Charitable Trust provides monthly financial assistance to nearby 256 prominent NGOs who are actively involved in the service of mankind. Notable among them being:
- The Delhi Society for the Welfare of Special Children
- Navjivini School of Special Education Patiala
- The Deaf & Blind School, Village Saifadipur, Patiala
- Society for Welfare of Handicapped, Patiala
- Nasha Chhadao Kender, Patiala
- District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRC) at Sangrur & Patiala
- Breast Cancer Trust, Chandigarh
- Pingalwara Charitable Society, Amritsar
- Central Khalsa Orphanage, Amritsar
- Sakuntala Girls Senior Secondary School for abandoned children, Patiala
- Nirdosh School for the Mentally Retarded, Ludhiana
- Saathi Special Child Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
- Old Age Home Kathmandu Nepal
- Nepal Gatka Federation, Kathmandu Nepal
- Mahant Thapa Thali Kathmandu Nepal
- Mahant Guru Nanak Math Gurudwara Kathmandu Nepal
- Cancer Roko Organisation, England
- Bhai Ghaniya Cancer Roko Society Faridkot
- Patiala Thalassemia Children Welfare Ass.
Our Trust has also been providing Infrastructure and Financial support to social organizations and individuals:-
The Trust has launched “SARBAT DA BHALA AWAAS YOJNA” for poor homeless people.
- Given financial help to about 240 families for repairing their houses & for the construction of the new houses in the villages of Punjab.
- Constructed 7 new flats for Sikligar families at Bahadurgarh, Patiala.
- 10 New flats are under construction.
- Donated to Lions’ Cancer Care Society Hospital Kochi, Kerala for construction of one floor of the hospital & installation of elevator
- Sponsored all students of Kusht Rog Ashram, Patiala & Kusht Rog Ashram Kaithal Karnal for their higher education & renovated houses of 80 families.
- Providing monthly pension to old ladies & widows, around 1200 ladies are getting the benefit. SDB budget of 2014 is to help around 5000 needy ladies.
- Computer centres opened for free computer education for girls.
- Opened Gurmat Sangeet College in Amritsar, providing free education with monthly stipend to students. The college started on 13th April, 2013 with 25 students.
- Donated Boxing Rings and RO Systems with Water Coolers at Village Hassanpur and Patiala, where 300 boxers are getting the benefits of ring. Taking care of their dietary needs and sponsored Boxing coach from Italy for their special training. Many of them won Gold and Silver medals at National and State level tournaments.
- On 5th Sept’13, SDB Donated Funeral Hearse van in Talwara Township, Hoshiarpur and nine more will be donated in Punjab and Haryana.
- Constructed common Room for Girls in Girls Hostel Mahindra College Patiala & Govt. Polytechnic College for Girls Patiala.
- Donated 15 Water Coolers with RO Systems at various public places and school.
- New Toilet Block at Govt. Elementary School, Yadvindera Colony, Patiala
- Shed in Punjab Police Welfare Association office, Patiala.
- Renovated Sunny Oberoi Art Auditorium in Punjabi University
- Soon Sunny Oberoi Bal Bhawan and Istri Bhawan in Patiala construction work is going to start.
- Donated 150 Bed with Mattress and complete bedding, Furniture of Common Room and Dining room to Saket Rehabilitation Centre Patiala.
- Sunny Oberoi Science and Commerce Block in Village Bhankar Patiala.
- Constructing a Creche cum School for 100 underprivileged children and sponsoring for their free education with refreshment in Sunny Oberoi Park Patiala.
- Donated 3 Nos. School Van in Pingalwara, Sangrur, Vani School for H.I Patiala.
SDB Charitable Trust has also been organising free Medical Camps, notable among them being:-
- Organized 15 blood donation camps in Dubai with the help of Dubai Health Authorities at and collected about 2,000 blood units
- Promised to Dubai Health Authorities to donate 1,200 blood units per year
- Free eye operations, Free Glasses, lens implants and cataract surgery of 2500 needy patients has been done in 25 camps. Estimated 8000 operations are to be performed by the end of 2014. Estimated 250 camps are slated to be organised by end of 2014 in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and J & K.
As far as the Projects in the pipeline go, they are:-
Sarbat Da Bhala Trust had purchased a land measuring 20 acres at Sirhind Road, Patiala where following projects are slated to be launched;
- To establish an Old Age Home having capacity to house 500 impecunious people
- Destitute Centre for abandoned children
- A vocational school for poor students for free education up to 10+2 stream
- A Technical Training Institute to develop skilled professionals for their entrepreneurship as carpenter, mason, plumber, steel fixer, electrician & IT
- A Charitable Hospital with 24 hours ambulance facility
- One School & Hostel for Deaf & Blind Students
- One School & Hostel for Mentally Retarded Children
- A Sikh Museum & Library
- Classical Sangeet Academy
- International Gatka Research & Training Academy
- 10 Crèches in Punjab & Haryana Jails
- 100 Computer Centres for Girls in Punjab
- 200 no. Tailoring & Embroidery centres in villages
- Special Care Units for Thalassemia, Chemotherapy & Burned Patients.
- Opening Tailoring & Embroidery centres in Punjab Jails for women prisoners
- Planning to adopt elementary schools of district Sangrur, Punjab under the Punjab Govt. Scheme
SDB Charitable Trust is currently working on a project in Punjab where we plan to build homes for elderly cancer patients. 100 acre land has already been purchased for 100 Huts with all basic facilities where elderly cancer patients neglected by their own children can spend their last days of their life in care.
We are working on a University of special needs for the handicapped, deaf and dumb, MR, blind, orphan students and for senior citizens.
Besides, we are planning an Old Age Home in all district of Punjab, capacity of 60 beds alongside a Skilled training centre in all district of Punjab.
As for the Sarbat Da Bhala Jammu & Kashmir Project, SDB launched its office in Srinagar and Rs 50 lakhs budget has already been approved for the following works for the welfare in Kashmir:
- 200 Marriages of needy ones of all caste.
- 200 Free eye operations, lens implants and cataract surgery
- SDB will provide a pension to 400 old age women and widow ladies.
- Higher education to 10 needy students
- Free education to 500 students (SDB will take care of their School fees, Uniform and books expenses)
- Pocket money to Orphan students.
- 10 Computer centre for free computer education
- Stitching and Embroidery centre
- Financial support to 10 NGO’s who are working selfless for the society
- Arranging Teachers to teach Punjabi Language in the villages of Kashmir.
Living up to their reputation of being good Samaritans, Sarbat Da Bhala sent huge relief materials that included Blankets, Sweaters, jackets, water, eating goods and medicines with a Doctor’s team to the aid of Flood Ravaged victims of Kashmir. SDB Srinagar team is preparing a list of damaged houses, so that they could plan their strategy for rebuilding or repairing them (as the need be), or providing them financial assistance.
Kanwarjeet Singh Kochhar, the indefatigable newly chosen president of the Delhi Chapter of Sarbat Da Bhala remarks, “The office bearers of the Delhi Chapter might hail from different backgrounds, but compassion for humanity is what unifies all of us. Our only mission is to make a sincere efforts to the pertinent issues concerning the society. Nothing beats the euphoria when our team of likeminded beings in Sarbat Da Bhala are able to become the source of joy and happiness for those in pain and suffering. My life acquired an altogether new dimension ever since I decided to dedicate myself to the service of the under privileged strata of society. My inspiration has been my elder brother SP Singh Oberoi who has motivated me to devote myself towards philanthropy. Our Trust has plans to adopt few poor villages, and turn things around for them. While we may have accomplished few milestones, there are still miles to go as myriads of problems still remain unresolved. Our torchbearer is SP Singh Oberoi, whose altruistic acts of charity and nobility have always been low profile as a policy, but they have effectively managed to strike a resonance with the distraught ones. He is a true divine emissary who has etched his names in the books of history on the basis of his extraordinary accomplishments. Much akin to the scanty drop of water, that either has the option of falling on a leaf of lotus or getting lost in big lake, he has shone like a pearl because he has always been the master of his destiny. He has dedicated a lifetime to social welfare works. The world is his oyster. Be it the ever so pertinent issue of girl child, women empowerment, or giving monthly support to NGOs, Oberoi has been at the helm playing a sheet anchor role in helping people in distress. From delivering motivational and comforting speeches to distributing blankets, food items, books and clothes among the destitute, forlorn old folks, blind kids and orphan girls, he has been a hero for all such hapless beings thanks to his humanitarian gestures from time to time. I take this opportunity to pray for his wellbeing and long life. Kudos to him all the way!!”