Philanthropy in Indian American Community


By Inder Singh
Lajpat Rai Munger of California donated land worth Rs 20 crores to the Punjab University in 2006 for setting up law and nursing institutes. Jagdish Khangura, an electrical engineer turned businessman, started “Baba Kartar Singh Dukki Higher Secondary School in village Larata, district Ludhiana, Punjab in memory of his grandfather. He created “Baba Kartar Singh Dukki Educational Trust with endowment of Rs. 30 lakhs to meet the needs of students for books, bicycles, clothes, scholarships, etc. Kartar Singh Dukki was an active member of the Gadar Party and worked in the Gadar Printing office in San Francisco during the beginning of the Gadar Movement. 

Darshan Singh Dhaliwal who operates over 1000 gas stations has donated $2.5 million to Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), $1 million for a chair at the University of Wisconsin, (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), $200,000 for Modern Language Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, (Parkside, Wisconsin), $100,000 for a soccer park and the list of his beneficiaries runs long. California native Hardit Singh Aurora has gifted an endowed chair in Sikh and Punjabi studies at the History Department of the University of California in Santa Cruz in memory of his son Sarabjit Singh Aurora. Ishar Singh Bindra and family have established the Sardarni Kuljit Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, to promote the academic study of Sikh religion, culture and history. The Bindra family has also established “The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize” for an individual or organization that promotes harmony and peaceful coexistence. In the same university, Dr. Hakam Singh of Los Angeles, a scientist and a scholar, has established the Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology (Gurmat Sangeet).

There are many more Indian Americans who continue to give their charitable donations for poverty alleviation, healthcare, educational and other projects undertaken by non-profit organizations. According to Navneet Chugh , India “centric” charities raised $30 million in the US in 2006. Many Indian Americans are apprehensive about supporting Indian nonprofits for reasons of accountability, although they want to make a difference if their donations are used effectively and efficiently. Several Indian Americans have directly donated for renovation of temples, upgrading of school buildings and building of sports arenas in their villages and home towns. Several more have urge to give back to their country of origin and can be motivated to contribute towards the development of their villages, schools, roads and similar targeted projects if there is a structured policy facilitating charitable giving and accounatbility. 

The Indian American population has been growing steadily; actually doubling every ten years during the last thirty years. Indian American nonprofits have also been increasing in both number and organization size. Some of the leading non-profit organizations which have been regularly raising funds in the United States include America India Foundation (AIF), Pratham, Ekal Vidyalaya, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Sankara Eye Foundation, Child Relief, Share and Care and Asha for Education. 

AIF, whose honorary chair is former President Bill Clinton, has raised $50 million since its inception in 2001. AIF’s initiatives center around education, livelihood, and public health projects in India – with emphasis on elementary education, women’s empowerment, and HIV/AIDS, respectively. AIF’s Digital Equalizer (DE) program takes digital expertise to thousands of students in under-resourced schools across India.

—To be continued

Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on Indian Diaspora. He is Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). He was president of GOPIO from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) from 1988-92 and was the founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He can be reached at

April 2011

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