What is the extent of a person’s success? Maybe the extent of only his dreams. From a diesel mechanic to a business tycoon and then to one of the most eminent philanthropists of contemporary times, Dr S. P. Singh Oberoi’s story is no less than any fairytale; except it’s real.
It was in 2010, when S. P. Singh Oberoi, a man who always believed in second chances, got his second chance: a life that would be lived in the service of others from there on. He read the news about 17 Indians sentenced to death after a group fight led to the death of a Pakistani lad. He read the news again and again, but could never come to terms to the fact that 17 people had to die for compensating the death of one man. He arranged a meeting with them in jail and then flew back home to meet their families. Once coming across the sufferings of the families, he was left with no other option but to save them, irrespective of whatever cost it might incur.
This became a point of transformation in his life. He vowed his life, and 95% of his income to the service of humanity. He formed the Sarbat Da Bhala Charitable Trust and began fighting their cases. In the long-drawn court battle, Oberoi won, but he had to pay $2.2 million from his savings in the form of blood money to the family of the deceased Pakistani man. Since then, he has never looked back and has, to date, paid blood money for 89 people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, rescuing them from the gallows.
With time, the Trust expanded its areas of operations in Dubai. It began assisting in bringing dead bodies back home and rescuing girls stuck in the Gulf region. Till now, the Trust has successfully brought back over 80 dead bodies and rescued five girls while it fights for the rescue of 105 more.
Back home in Punjab, he is on the verge of building medical infrastructure, that will have a dialysis unit, every 15 km. For this purpose, he has already donated more than a thousand dialysis units and now plans to expand this initiative to other regions of the country. He adopts terminally-ill patients, takes care of their treatment, and supports their families with a fixed monthly pension. This fixed monthly pension support also runs through the low-income regions of Punjab and Haryana and has 8000 beneficiary families as of now. As for him, a total overhaul of the healthcare system in India can only be done by strengthening the emergency patient transit system and making diagnosis procedures affordable for all. To realise this dream, he is donating ambulances in large numbers, and setting up a chain of diagnostic labs that offer tests at the same rate as any government hospital does.
Understanding the crucial importance of education in the development of society, Oberoi puts in a great effort and a huge amount of money in ensuring that every child receives a formal education. He runs schools and colleges across Punjab and Haryana and has adopted over 100 students from different colleges of Punjab. His Trust also provides monetary, developmental, and structural support to institutions across Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The ROs installed in these institutions are currently making pure drinking water available to 8 lakh students.
But his most ambitious project of all is the upcoming school for 1200 disabled children in Abohar, equipped with boarding facilities and all the modern amenities required to cater to the delicate needs of these children. His Trust is aggressively involved in spreading awareness about disability-centric work, and he generously gives grants to NGOs involved with generating a source of income for people with disabilities. This school in Abohar will be the first of five special schools to come up in the Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh region.
Today, Sarbat Da Bhala Charitable Trust runs 26 welfare projects, all funded by Oberoi. It builds new houses for people and renovates those that are in ruins; it runs computer, stitching, and electrical and electronics training centres in low-income neighbourhoods, and sets up a source of income for people living along and below the poverty line.
For giving it all away to the needy, Oberoi first had to spend 34 years of his life making a fortune. He started as a diesel mechanic in Himachal Pradesh in 1975 and then moved to Dubai in 1977. In 1981, he returned to start his own company which flourished quickly due to his commitment and hard work. He returned to Dubai to start Apex Trading Company in 1991, Apex International Construction in 1996, Dubai Grand Hotel in 1998 and Oberoi Properties & Investments LLC in 2004.
For a man living by the spirit of giving, this journey has not been easy. Him donating 95% of his income became a point of debate and suspicion, prompting a directorate of enforcement to initiate an inquiry in his earnings, which later failed to find any discrepancy.
But through it all, he has yet to allow anything to come in between his love for underprivileged sections of society and himself. Working for the betterment of people is his priority, and when his hotel chain demanded his attention, he chose to shut it down rather than shifting away from his welfare work.
Being a man of humble beginnings, he tries to hide in his humility. But his good deeds always shine in plain sight.
For his work in bringing around a change in the socio-economic structure of the society, he has received awards at the World Science Congress—United Nations, and House of Lords—London. He is a recipient of the Gold Medal by the Grand Prix Humanitarian Association, France, and the Punjab Ratan Award in India. He is also the first Indian to be elevated to Consulate-General of Principality of Seborga, India, and the first awardee of an honorary degree in Philanthropy from the International University of Fundamental Studies (affiliated with the Oxford Education Network, International Parliament of Safety & Peace and California University).
Being a man committed to easing and eradicating the sufferings of the underprivileged, Dr S. P. Singh Oberoi Says, “Do all the good, by all the means, in all the ways, to all the people, as long as ever you can.”