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September 12, 2014, WASHINGTON, DC — On Sunday, EcoSikh hosted its annual gala, which marked the fifth anniversary of the non-profit organization and drew a crowd of over 300 guests from all across the Washington, DC area and East Coast to celebrate EcoSikh’s five years of green action. Organizers termed this as the ‘largest gathering of Sikhs coming together for Earth’s future’. During the evening, funds were raised to help support the environmental initiatives in Punjab and elsewhere in the world through EcoSikh, a worldwide Sikh environmental group.
The star-studded event featured musical entertainment from Indian Idol’s Devender Pal Singh from India and renowned music composer, Shankar Tucker. Twenty-year-old Devender Pal enthralled the audience with his classical songs from Indian movies and sufi-style Punjabi numbers. One of the main musical highlights of the night was when Singh, Tucker, and Sehejneet Kaur of Potomac, MD performed a rendition of “O Re Piya / Rolling in the Deep,” an original song mash-up by Shankar Tucker that has garnered over 3.6 million views on YouTube. They were accompanied by Tarnpreet Singh from California.
EcoSikh was launched in 2009 as the Sikh response to a call by the United Nations to World Religions to save Earth’s environment. Since then, EcoSikh has facilitated many projects in Punjab and around the world through its two staff members in India and one in Washington. It also launched Sikh Environment Day (March 14) and over 2,000 Sikh gurdwaras, educational institutions, schools and colleges have joined this movement this year. EcoSikh has also started initiatives for the city of Amritsar and Nanded in India. Many speakers at the gala highlighted EcoSikh’s commitment to spread awareness about environmental issues and to encourage green action in the Sikh community in Punjab, India and around the world.
Suneet Singh Tuli, Chief Executive Officer of DataWinds Ltd., whose company created the world’s most affordable tablet computer, gave the keynote address of the event. In his speech, he emphasized the importance for Sikhs to be leaders in their communities, for both Sikhs and non-Sikhs. He asked the audience about how they are perceived by their non-Sikh neighbors, and if non-Sikhs knew about Sikhi’s dedication to selfless service, hard work, and equality. Tuli appealed to all guests, and asked them to take concrete actions to make a positive difference in their communities. “We cannot be quiet bystanders. We must right the wrong that we see. We are answerable to the future generations if we do not take care of Mother Earth. It is our responsibility,” said Tuli.
DJ Lucky provided the event, and engaged the diverse crowd. “It’s very inspiring to see both youth and adults here tonight,” said EcoSikh North America Program Manager, Sumeet Kaur. “It is crucial to have an intergenerational audience. Our mothers and fathers care deeply about the environmental integrity of their homeland, but we must also charge Sikh youth with the responsibility to take green actions. The fact that we have many young people attending and volunteering means that young people will take control of their futures and rectify damages previous done to Mata Dharat Mahat.”
Dimple Sandhu, Outreach Director of the DC Chapter of EcoSikh, hosted the event, and introduced “the spirit of EcoSikh,” Dr. Rajwant Singh. Dr. Singh spoke about the challenges facing Punjab today. He noted that forest coverage in Punjab is less than 1 percent. He also told stories of contaminated drinking water supplies that have caused serious health issues for Punjab’s citizens, such as cancer and radioactive poisoning.
Ravneet Pal Singh, South Asia Project Manager, appealed to the audience with his speech on environmental preservation and the pointed out that often people blame developing countries for environmental degradation but it is the developed world which has caused havoc on many fronts. He added, “Birds, animals and fish in the oceans are part of the family and their well-being is equally important.
SikhNet, a renowned Sikh cybercommunity website for news, events and online discussions was honored for their work in promoting the environmental agenda through their online network. Guru Amrit Singh of SikhNet praised EcoSikh’s work and said, “Their efforts are very important for all humanity and we are happy to be part of this movement.” SikhNet is one of the most visited sites for Sikh news. In addition, the audience was entertained and challenged by EcoSikh’s treasurer Manranjan Singh’s humor and wit to take action toward nature preservation. Tedi Pagg, a group of young Sikhs from DC area, Rajdeep Singh, Jujhar Singh and Gurvir Singh had presented their debut Punjabi song ‘Rukh’, a famous poem by late Punjabi writer Shiv Kumar Batalvi.
The night came to an end with another performance by Devender Pal Singh, who engaged the crowd directly by dancing with guests on the dance floor. Harjot Singh accompanied him on Dhol. Devender Pal Singh also picked the winning raffle ticket for a free round trip ticket to India, provided by Air India. The event’s green theme and stage decorations were created by Kawal Singh and table decorations by Preet Amrit Kaur. Rhea Kaur Nandra and Aman Singh, two middle school students, highlighted the youth involvement of collecting funds to plant trees in Amritsar. Several young people have been engaged in reaching out to neighbors and friends to donate for tree plantation initiative and they were namely: Jagjot Kaur Battu, Hana Mangat, Japneet Kaur, Ramleen Kaur, Harleen Kaur, Madhur Vinaik, Gurnoor Singh, Keerat Singh, Gurjit Singh, and Gursimar Singh. Guransh Singh designed the T-shirt for EcoSikh.
The event and EcoSikh is largely supported by volunteers: Dimple Kaur Sandhu, Ramandeep Singh, Harmeet Singh Sandhu, Manpreet Singh, Sehejneet Kaur, Guransh Singh, Gita Pabla, Meenu Nandra, Amar Trivedi, Gawinder Billing, Manranjan Singh Chowdhary, Archna Bhatia, Baljit Kaur Ahuja and many more.