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Sikh Human Development Foundation grants record number of Scholarships in India

Washington (May 11, 2007)- Washington-based Sikh Human Development Foundation (SHDF) has awarded 153 scholarships this year to needy students in Punjab and neighboring states in India. This is the highest number of need-based scholarships granted in any single year by SHDF to meritorious Sikh and non-Sikh students pursuing professional degree courses. The last year’s record number was 127.

Starting with 24 scholarships in 2000-01, SHDF has continuously improved upon its previous year’s record. By now it has awarded a total of 580 scholarships of which more than 160 recipients have already graduated. SHDF is now tracking their placement in appropriate jobs, said Gajinder S. Ahuja, SHDF Secretary General.

Some Scholarship recipients with Amarjit Singh Sodhi, Chairman of SHDF (first one standing from the left) at the Guru Nanak Dev University

Continuing, Mr. Ahuja said that "An analysis of the scholarships for 2006-07 shows that 53% of the scholarships went to male and 47% to female students. 60% of the scholarship recipients, boys, and girls came from villages, and 40% from urban centers. The professional split of scholarships was: 44% for different branches of engineering and technology, 22% for medicine and health, 20% in computer sciences, and the balance for disciplines like agriculture, aeronautics, business management, and journalism. A number of these students are children of widows, terminally sick parents, domestic servants, pensioners, and daily wage laborers in urban as well as rural areas. 58% of the students are from families with an income of less than a dollar a day per person. In fact, 39% of the students are from families with incomes of less than 60 cents per day per person."

Some Scholarship recipients meeting Amarjit Singh Sodhi in Ludhiana

Founded by a group of Sikh professionals in the Washington metropolitan area in 1999, SHDF is perhaps the only Sikh organization that is focused exclusively on the granting of scholarships to needy students for higher education in northern India.

Some Scholarship recipients in Ludhiana.

"We aim to increase the number of scholarships to 200 in 2007-08 and to some 500 in the next few years", said Amar Jit Singh Sodhi, Chairman of SHDF and a former World Bank official. He added, "In the context of the ongoing IT revolution and the imminent wireless-communications revolution worldwide, access to higher education is the most pressing need of a nation whose 50 percent of the population is less than 25 years old. Unfortunately, with sharply escalating costs of higher education, even bright children of far too many low-income families are being left behind, creating potentially an explosive situation. SHDF is trying to provide a platform where the ambition and aspirations of the bright but resource-constrained youth meet with the much-needed opportunity. SHDF is also working with institutions in India to arrange workshops to impart "Life Skills" to scholarship recipients and to familiarize them with basic entrepreneurial skills."

In recent months, several SHDF Executive Council (EC) members have traveled to India to widen and deepen their grassroots contacts and to work with its cooperating institutions, which include Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, New Delhi and Vice Chancellors of the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. Contacts are also being established with other universities.

Amarjit Singh Sodhi with K.S. Aulakh, Vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University(right)and the Dean of the university

Mr. Sodhi, who personally met with several scholarship recipients, including some who have already graduated, during his recent trip to India (February 2007) stated , "It is a very fulfilling experience to see students from low-income families improve their grades and succeed with SHDF help. I was delighted to see their faces sparkle and their ambitions soar. Two of them, raised in dire circumstances, are planning to compete for the I.A.S. – India's elite civil service."

SHDF raises funds from individual donors, Gurdwara gatherings, and periodic fundraising events. According to Mr. Ahuja, "SHDF tries to keep its overhead costs to the minimum with zero payrolls and zero cost to SHDF for members' visits to India - these costs are borne by EC members themselves." For 2007-08, the estimated average cost of a scholarship is $400 per annum.

Dr. Rajwant Singh, a founding member of the SHDF Executive Council, who met with many scholarship recipients in Northern India last year, said, Success stories of these students provide us the energy and enthusiasm to continue on this noble cause. We have met some students who were the first to complete college education from their respective villages. We are proud to say that they thrived with financial assistance from SHDF. We could not have done this without the support of the community and especially of those individuals who have the desire to bring joy to the lives of others."

Mr. Ahuja provided the following sample comments from the recent applicants who won the scholarships:

Gurvir Singh, an IT student from Ajitwal, Punjab, said, "My father is a small tailor...with no shop of his own. It is not possible for him to bear the expenditure on my tuition fee. If an SHDF scholarship is granted to a poor student like me, it would be of immense help (to me) to rise up in society, become a good citizen of India and serve my country with honesty."

Amandeep Singh, a Computer Engineering student at the prestigious Thapar Polytechnic College in Patiala, Punjab, said, "I need an SHDF scholarship as I am from a very poor family. My father is a cart-puller and my mother is a house servant. My first-semester fee has been paid by our neighbor. I have no money to pay for the next semester."

SHDF officials during the fundraising event in Washington last year left to right: Dr. Rajwant Singh, Dr. Harbaksh Singh Sethi, Navneet Singh Chugh, patron of SHDF, Amarjit Singh Sodhi, Surinder Singh and Gajinder Singh Ahuja

Rajwinder Kaur, another nursing student said, "My father expired when I was very little. The whole responsibility of my sister and my studies is on my uncle, .......who is a truck driver. My village is a very backward area...where girls are not allowed to study. After completion of my studies, I want to help the illiterate people of my village.....with their health problems."

SHDF is comprised of professionals from the Washington metropolitan area. Other members of the executive council of SHDF are Harbaksh Singh Sethi, Veena Kaur Oberoi, Surinder Singh, and Dr. Rajwant Singh.

To contact Sikh Human Development Foundation,

email to: or

or write to:

SHDF, 15129 Winesap Drive,

North Potomac, MD 20878

or phone:

Gajinder S. Ahuja at 301 963 3928.

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