Pt. Kanshi Ram & Pt. Kirpa Ram Charitable & Welfare Trust

In one of his informal audiences with the spiritual mentor of the Sharma family, reverently referred to as ‘Guru-ji’, the enlightened one advised (Late) Mr. Inder Sharma, Chairman, Select Group, to go back to his roots and create something memorable and long lasting, to benefit the local population, and dedicate it to the memory of his fore-fathers. His ancestors, being men of medicine, thus was born Chairman’s resolve to create a charitable dispensary in their honor at his ancestral village Lalowal, Tehsil Dhariwal, Distt. Gurdaspur, Punjab. His son, Mr. Arjun Sharma, Managing Director, Select Group, ever supportive and in deference to his father’s desire, registered Pt. Kanshi Ram & Pt. Kirpa Ram Trust, on 20 Apr 2004.

The ‘Settlors’ for the Trust were Mr. Arjun Sharma and his cousin, Mr. Balbir Punj. It was thus named to honor their respective great grandfathers, with the purpose to develop, support and encourage charitable activities and inculcate/support religious teachings primarily at Lalowal. The Trust had two other family members, Mr. Narinder Sharma and Mr. Navin Punj, who as Trustees with Mr. Arjun Sharma and Mr. Balbir Punj, were equally and actively involved in contributing to the trust funds and activities. While, (Late) Mr. Inder Sharma, was incorporated as a Trustee in 2013, when Mr. Navin Punj, prematurely demised, he had always been the main inspiration for setting up the Trust, overseen its registration and functioning from inception. He had helped raised funds, guided its destiny and motivated the other Trustees in fulfilling its goals till his demise on 04 Sep 2017.

The Trust was the precursor and catalyst to fast track construction and activation of the envisioned charitable dispensary ‘Guruji ki Dispensary’ (named such in reverence to their spiritual guru and hereafter referred to as GKD). The GKD, inaugurated in 2006, teamed up with The Salvation Army, Macrobert Hospital, Dhariwal, to provide a visiting General Practitioner in the mornings from Monday to Friday. (Late) Mr. Inder Sharma ensured that over the years, GKD evolved into the most reliable low-cost medical care option for not just residents of their native Village Lalowal, but, also for the more humble background families of 8 to 9 villages in its vicinity. At a nominal fee of between Rs. 5/- to Rs. 10/-, GKD affords these patients, averaging 30 – 35 each day, the services of a qualified General Practitioner, weekly visits by an ophthalmologist and dentist, twice a week lab technician and 3 days of basic medication. The medicine are sourced from authentic, trusted dealers.

GKD is a role model of how a family sitting miles away, can still retain bonds with the ancestral roots and give back to the land and local people which nurtured their peers. A value addition was added to the GKD outreach in Sept 2012 via the first free medical camp. Close to 300 patients graced this first camp, where over 30 doctors and staff from Macrobert Hospital conducted their general check-up and eye tests. The success was much appreciated by Late Mr. Inder Sharma and he directed that it become a regular annual feature. He also sponsored the cost of 20 cataract operations after this first camp.

And so it has continued. The 06th Annual Free Medical Camp was held on 02 Dec 2017. It was graced by approx. 550 patients from within a 5 km radius of Lalowal. In this first Camp post the erstwhile Select Group Chairman’s demise, over 50 doctors, technical staff and nurses, undertook general health check-ups, eye check-ups especially for identifying patients for cataract surgery, dental checks and physiotherapy. Medicines were in plenty and free of cost as always. Of the 135 patients shortlisted for cataract surgery, 133 were found medically fit and underwent the same at Macrobert Hospital by end-Dec. It was well over the 108 who had been sponsored after the 2016 Camp. The cost of cataract surgeries has been traditionally sponsored by the Sharma Family, through “Shakuntla – Ram Labhaya Educational Charitable Trust’. Dr. (Mrs.) Aruna Sharma, the first lady of the Group, had started this Trust in memory of her late Ophthalmologist father.

Since 2014, the annual Camp has also become a traditional ‘back to roots’ or ‘homecoming’ trip for the Sharma and the Punj families. They ensure presence at Lalowal on the penultimate day, devote it to mingling with the locals, elders, the Sarpanch, the patients, and the Macrobert Hospital medical staff over tea and lunch. The visit also includes a village walk to their ancestral home and a thanksgiving prayer to their deity, Bua Datti, at a temple also built and maintained by them, and open to all. As their acknowledgement of the role of Macrobert Hospital, the culmination of the day’s activities always takes place at the Hospital in Dhaliwal. Felicitations aside, it is here that the large heart of the Sharma family once again shows. The Hospital has benefited through additional donations from them, resulting in purchase of a fully loaded Ambulance and a state-of-the-art Laparoscopy Machine over the past 2 years. This year they are considering a donation to upgrade the hospital’s vintage X-ray machine to a digital one.

The GKD is a boon to the local, rural low income population and the Sharma family takes great pride and solace in ensuring that GKD provides the best services possible for preliminary diagnosis and medication. Beyond that, the patient has to traverse 7 kilometers to a civil doctor or Macrobert Hospital at his or her own cost. Treatment costs are especially subsidized at this Hospital for all Lalowal residents.

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