Dubai: When he first came to Dubai in 1993, Indian expat Joginder Singh Salaria lifted construction materials as a crane operator who earned Dh1,000 a month.
Today, Salaria is lifting up lives in various countries through a charitable trust run by his own transport company, Pehal International.
The Rajput man from Khiala village in the north Indian state of Punjab has been reaching out to a myriad people — from drought-hit villagers in Pakistan, widows, orphans, cancer patients in India and impoverished children in Uganda and Ethiopia, to fasting labourers and patients requiring blood in the UAE.
“When I saw the sufferings of an entire village on a Facebook video, it broke my heart,” Salaria told Gulf News in an interview.
He was referring to a video which showed some 200 families in a village in Pakistan’s Sindh area walking for seven to eight kilometres to fetch drinking water.
“They were still bringing home bad quality water. There was not a single bore-well for a village of 200 families. I heard them saying they are so impoverished that parents and children take turns to eat on alternate days. After seeing that, I couldn’t sit back without doing something for them,” said Salaria whose parents had migrated to India from Pakistan after partition.
Being an Indian, it was not an easy job for Salaria. He said he had to engage Bheel Khangar, a resident of Tharparkar in Sindh as a volunteer to carry out his charity work in the area.
Sending him money was the next big challenge. Salaria said he took the help of many Pakistani friends, employees and even workers in the Fruits and Vegetable market to transfer money to Khangar.
“When we were doing this, both the countries were locking horns at the border. My own team members here asked me if we should go ahead. But I was adamant that I shouldn’t add to the hatred, and work beyond boundaries and sectarian thoughts. I chose humanity, not the country.”
The result was clean drinking water for 42 villages through borewells dug in the name of PCT Humanity (Pehal Charitable Trust). Speaking to Gulf News over phone, Khangar said 68 borewells have been built in 42 villages since February. “The people here are extremely happy and they are praying for him [Salaria]. Many of them had to travel more than 10 kilometres to get drinking water. They are so happy that they can now get drinking water near their homes.”
Volunteers led by Khangar have also distributed almost 20 tonnes of wheat flour in those villages. “I am working on helping them start classes for their children as per the Pakistani curriculum. Slowly we are extending our work to Dera Ghazi Khan. I have already written to Prime Minister Imran Khan, requesting him to pay attention to the plight of these villagers.”
Spreading wings of charity
Salaria said PCT Humanity is doing similar work in remote villages in Punjab and other places in India that are facing shortage of water.
A registered charity trust in Delhi, which is under the process of registering with International Humanitarian City in Dubai, PCT Humanity is running an ashram for 84 widows in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, another shelter for 67 orphan girls in Delhi.
Apart from extending a helping hand to the disadvantaged in various places in India, it has also been engaged in providing relief materials to those affected in calamities such as the earthquake in Nepal and floods in Kerala.
In Uganda, it distributed books, stationery, school uniforms, footwear, sports kits and ration to students in Jinja.
Donating blood and food
In the UAE, PCT Humanity has been organising blood donation campaigns. When it arranges workers to donate blood, it provides them transport, T-shirts, food and appreciation certificate. And Salaria makes sure to lead the drive by donating blood almost every three months.
Pehal International’s yard in Dubai Industrial City also hosts iftar for hundreds of workers every day during Ramadan since 2012. PCT Humanity recently entered the Guinness Book of World Records by forming the ‘Longest Line of Hunger Relief Package’ in a special iftar in Abu Dhabi.
“I am serving vegetarian iftar, thereby trying to spread the message of eating healthy and being kind to animals,” said Salaria, who believes charity begins with a smile.