The saviour. Shamsher Singh, crane driver turned insurance broker, has helped raise blood money for scores of blue collar workers in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Anjana Sankar/XPRESS

ABU DHABI Shamsher Singh, 61, has a 24-hour job in Abu Dhabi. For scores of accident victims, unpaid workers, prisoners who need to pay blood money, expats caught in legal battles, and bereaved families awaiting dead bodies of their loved ones – Singh is their go-to man.

After his nine to four job as an insurance broker at Metlife, Singh from the Indian state of Punjab is a ubiquitous presence in Abu Dhabi’s hospital wards, mortuaries, legal firms and labour camps, solving problems of hapless workers who approach him.

“I try to do all I can to help those in need. I believe in doing as much good as I can before I leave this world,” a cheerful Singh told XPRESS. Most of Singh’s voluntary work is carried out through an informal support group of Punjabi truck drivers that he has helped for more than a decade.


Singh claims the group has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dirhams as blood money to free those jailed in road accident cases, and fight legal battles to get compensation for accident victims or their relatives.

The informal group works like this: Each member contributes Dh2,000 over a period of four years, thus generating a common welfare fund which is placed in a bank account jointly shared by five members. Whenever a member of the group gets involved in a road accident and is jailed, the fund is used to pay the blood money to the victim’s relatives and secure the driver’s release. Currently, there are more than 3,000 members in the group, and they have between Dh300,000 and Dh500,000 at their disposal.

Singh, father of three grown up children in India, said it was a personal experience that prompted him to launch a welfare group for his countrymen.

“I was jailed in 1999 for causing the deaths of two people in an accident involving the crane I was driving. I had to spend seven months in jail as I was unable to raise Dh300,000 as blood money for the two victims’ families,” said Singh who earlier worked as a crane driver.

Finally, he was released thanks to a group of friends and fellow drivers who pooled in money and raised the amount. “That was an eye-opener. I did not want any other driver to face such a situation. The first thing I did after my release was form a support group and create a welfare fund,” he said.

Harpal Singh, 45, a member of the group, said that is the only form of insurance many drivers have. “Most companies have third party insurance that does not cover the drivers. And when there is an accident, they do not get any support from employers,” said Harpal, who now runs a transportation company in Abu Dhabi.

Harpal, who has known Singh since 1993, said he is a blessing for the community. “He has helped so many people. One call on his mobile and he will go wherever you need him,” said Harpal.

But for Singh, his social work is not limited to Punjabi truck drivers. For instance, two months ago, he helped settle a row with an Indian company in Abu Dhabi that did not pay their workers for four months. Some of the workers on condition of anonymity told XPRESS that they got their jobs back thanks to Singh’s efforts.

Jaswinder Kaur, a widow from Punjab, said she owes it to Singh for helping her get compensation of Dh200,000 after her husband’s death in Abu Dhabi in 2011.

Singh is currently fighting two cases involving two Indians, one from Kerala and the other from Hyderabad, who have not received compensation from their companies for worksite accidents. He has helped Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as well. “If they [workers] approach me for help, I can never say no. This is my calling,” said Singh.

YOU SPEAK: Do you know any similar tale of selfless service?