Washington-based Sikh Human Development Foundation (SHDF) has given scholarships totalling about $210,000 to 504 needy students pursuing higher education in 159 institutions in Punjab and other northern Indian states for the 2011-12 academic year.
"This number is up from 412 of the last year," said Gajinder Singh Ahuja, secretary general of SHDF. "Fifteen scholarship recipients belonged to farmers' families where the farmer had committed suicide to escape the excruciating debt burden."
There is increased emphasis on female education in our programme, he said, noting 69 percent of the scholarships went to female students and 31 percent to male students. 52 percent scholarship recipients were from rural areas and 48 percent from urban areas.
SHDF has granted 2,373 scholarships since the programme was initiated in 2001 and 774 students have already graduated and have become professionals, according to SHDF chairman Amar Jit Singh Sodhi.
"It is heartwarming that some of the scholarship recipients have landed in multi-national companies or found top career jobs throughout India and overseas," he said.
Rajwant Singh, SHDF's outreach director, said: "In rupee terms, this year we have distributed more than Rs.1 crore (close to $210,000) as pure scholarship money."
"This is perhaps the largest single grant money given by the diaspora community to needy but bright students surviving in extreme poverty and yet who dream of standing on their own feet," he added.
SHDF is largely supported by donors from Washington metro area and by many successful entrepreneurs throughout the US. It partners with Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council for implementing this programme in India.
Students can apply through its website: www.shdf.org.