Thursday, 18 December 2008

Bhagat Puran Singh

Bhagat Puran Singh (June 4, 1904-1992) was born in Rajewal, Ludhiana to a Hindu family and adopted Sikhism later in life. He was a writer, publisher, environmentalist and philanthropist. His most famous achivement was the establishment of Pingalwara, which is a charitable society that takes care of sick, disabled and mental patients. He founded Pingalwara in 1947 with a few discarded patients. Bhagat Puran Singh's contribution in spreading awareness about environmental pollution are also notable and he believed that every Panjabi person should plant a tree as they were being cleared at an alarming rate. Pamphlets with his views on subjects such as environmental awareness etc. were printed on recycled paper and freely distributed. The Indian Government awarded him one of their highest awards the Padma Shri award in 1979, which he swiftly surrendered in the wake of the Indian army's attack on the Golden Temple in 1984. He died on August 5, 1992 at the age of 98 in Amritsar. The charity he founded has seven branches including 5 in India and 2 in Canada and the US. Pingalwara offers many services in remote regions that would otherwise not be offered such as free drug dispensing, blood banks and offers education and shelter to the disabled.

The Indian writer Kushwant Singh once described him as "the bearded Mother Teresa of Punjab. Mother Teresa had the backing of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, the English press and innumerable foundations to give her money. Bhagat Ji Had nothing except his single-minded dedication to serve the poor and the needy. And yet he was able to help thousands of lepers, mentally and physically handicapped and the dying. His name will be written in letters of gold in the history of the world". His legacy lives on with the charity going strong and has recently opened a new branch in Manawala in the district of Amritsar. The organisation is now headed by Dr Inderkit Kaur and the charity is now known as the All India Pingalwara Charitable Society.

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