Why I ran for gurdwara presidency?

Retired banker Baldev Singh tells Asia Samachar why he led a team for the Petaling Jaya gurdwara elections. Concern for its financial position played a major role.

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| Petaling Jaya, Malaysia | 14 May 2017 | Asia Samachar |
Baldev Singh: Retired banker and SNSM former jathedar – PHOTO / FAMILY ALBUM

The Petaling Jaya gurdwara, like many other Sikh places of congregation and prayer nationwide, has to start generating a steady income from investments to steer away from its dependence on direct donations from the congregation.

The Sanggat is overwhelmed by the numerous fund raising activities by new and exiting gurdwaras. It has been tough when one funds raising team after another comes knocking on the same doors.

This is one of the areas that Baldev Singh – a retired banker who had offered himself to lead the gurdwara management committee (GMC) for the first time – wanted to do. He felt that Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya (GSPJ) seriously needs to relook at its financing which is largely dependent on direct donations.

“We cannot go back to members every now and then. Many other gurdwaras are also seeking funding. Its virtually impossible to tap the same people again and again. So gurdwaras should have investment income,” he told Asia Samachar.

However, Baldev would not be able to directly lead the Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya (GSPJ) as it holds its annual general meeting today (14 May 2017). His nomination form to run for president was rejected on technicalities as it contained some faulty information.

SETTING UP: The team led by Baldev SIngh for the GSPJ annual general meeting tomorrow. The line-up was shared via the social media.

SEE ALSO: Petaling Jaya old gurdwara building in dire straits

SEE ALSO: Wheelchair-bound Keshvinder Kaur eagerly awaits completion of Subang gurdwara 

His form was not the only rejected. Both candidates for the vice president post – outgoing secretary Avtar Singh ‘Terry’ and former president Harbajan Kaur – have also seen their forms rejected, also on technicalities.

As reported earlier, Baldev had accepted the decision to knock off his nomination form, saying: “I accept the decision. Constitution is supreme.” However, he and his team are expected to raise the manner of handling the nomination forms at the meeting today.

CHARDIKALA TEAM

Badging themselves as the Chardikala Team 2017, they released a manifesto listing four items that they would like to pursue if given the mandate to run the GSPJ committee for the next two years.

Topping the list is upgrading the gurdwara’s existing facilities, including installation of lift, which they say has been overdue for the last 10 years.

The team also intend to redevelop the old gurdwara to generate income, implement development programmes to attract the youth back to gurdwara; and develop GSPJ as a centre of learning through improved Punjabi education and gurmat studies.

The members listed in the team included Harbajan Kaur, Semret Singh, Ravindar Singh, Amarjeet Singh, Balvinder Singh, Harjinder Singh, Dr Gurcharan Singh, Davinder Singh, Kernail Singh Shounki, Mohan Singh, Nirmal Singh, Satvinder Singh, Satwant Singh and Shamsher Singh.

They are up against the incumbent team led by outgoing president Gurdeep Singh, who now technically would assume the post unopposed. Some key members of the team include Avtar and Tarlocahan Singh Dhaliwal who is their candidate for the secretary post.

FUNDING: Amrick Singh from Subang Sikh Association Selangor (SSAS) , which runs the Gurdwara Sahib Subang, receives a mock cheque MP Gobind Singh Deo for funding from the Selangor state government. On his right (garlanded) is Selangor mentri besar Azmin Ali – PHOTO / SSAS Facebook

NEW GURDWARAS

So, what made Baldev run for the GSPJ presidency? It largely has to do with the state of the gurdwara’s finance.

“Over the last one year, many Saturday and Sunday programmes have been empty. Some people have moved to Shah Alam. In one year’s time, more will move to Subang. That will be a big chunk, a big impact,” said Baldev.

Shah Alam, the state capital of Selangor, greeted its first gurdwara which was officially opened on 11 Dec 2015. Located 19km apart, Gurdwara Sahib Guru Nanak Shah Alam (GSGNSA) naturally now attracts Sikhs living in its vicinity, some of whom were earlier frequenting GSPJ.

By Vaisakhi 2018, the Subang Sikh Association Selangor (SSAS) hopes to see Gurdwara Sahib Subang up and running. The team there is actively raising funds to complete the four storey building, equipped with two heavy-duty lifts, estimated to cost RM4.8 million.

Both gurdwaras boast sizeable buildings and are set to be major Sikh local centres if their committees get their act right in attracting and retaining the congregation.

Petaling Jaya now has to marshall on with these new realities. In the past, it was able to tap the Sikhs living further apart, but they may now be drawn to those two gurdwaras.

“We welcome these gurdwaras. The Sanggat needs them,” Gurdeep told Asia Samachar in a telephone conversation.

However, the changing landscape may impact its finances.

GSPJ INCOME AND EXPENDITURE STATEMENT

(Year ended 31 Dec 2016)

Degh collection RM117,198 (2015: RM121,903)

Donations received RM451,431 (2015: RM451,750)

Golak RM29,032 (2015: RM41,849)

Gurpurab/jordmela collectios RM3,427 (2015: RM8,709)

TOTAL RM601,088 (2015: RM624,211)

“For the first time in history of this gurdwara, the receipts are less than the payment,” said Baldev. “In the past, they have always been in the positive region.”

An inspection of the GSPJ’s income and expenditure statement for year end 31 Dec 2016 shows a slight decline. The total for degh collection, donations, golak and gurpurab/jordmela collections for 2016 was RM601,088, down 3.7% from the year before at RM624,211.

DEVELOPMENT PLANS

Another concern for Baldev and his team is the lackluster performance of the existing committee in pushing forward plans to fix the lift for the existing gurdwara and the development of the piece of land which used to house the old gurdwara.

But he differs on the way moving forward and expressed reservations with the ‘grand plans’ to renovate the gurdwara.

“I’m saying don’t renovate. I suggested just spend on the lift. They have grand plans, costing RM2 million. I say use this money to invest in properties. At the old gurdwara, for example, we can build six apartments which can generate income. Many Chinese temples have such properties which give them income,” he said.

He pointed out that GSPJ earns RM10,000 a month from a RM2.7 million fixed deposit. He estimated that the gurdwara needs a minimum of RM60,000 for its monthly expenditure for salaries, utilities and others recurring items.

“The latest rumour is that I’m against the gurdwara development. Hardly. I can see the finances clearer than many others. Lets not deceive ourselves. We need to know the realities,” he said.

Today, GSPJ members will get a chance to check their realities and decide on their next course of action.

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

RELATED NEWS:

Petaling Jaya: What to do with old gurdwara builiding? (Asia Samachar, 12 May 2017)

What happens to gurdwaras with no Sanggat (Asia Samachar, 6 May 2017)

Petaling Jaya old gurdwara building in dire straits (Asia Samachar, 5 May 2017)

Wheelchair-bound Keshvinder Kaur eagerly awaits completion of Subang gurdwara (Asia Samachar, 20 Aug 2016)

Shah Alam gurdwara final donation drive to raise RM700,000 (Asia Samachar,15 July 2016)

Managing gurdwara funds transparently, with accountability (Asia Samachar, 14 Feb 2016)

Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional: The Root Causes (Asia Samachar, 26 Jan 2016)

Sentul gurdwara to get RM400,000 for building upgrade: DPM Ahmad Zahid (Asia Samachar, 14 April 2016)

Bayan Baru gurdwara momentous move to new home (Asia Samachar, 9 June 2016)

Sungai Siput to renovate 90-year old gurdwara (Asia Samachar,13 Dec 2015)

8 COMMENTS

  1. Sardar Sarabjeet Singh Ji
    Thank you for your response and comments and your statement that
    ‘I hear Baldev was offered a VPs nomination nut refrained from contesting. Bhai, don’t be a crab and pull each other down’.
    This is your right and free speech but please no one should be personal as ‘Baldev Singh Ji is not a ‘NUT’ [I hope this is a spelling error and not intended] and I am not a crab pulling down anyone.
    All I have been doing is calling for Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Gurdwara funds which belong to the Sanggat and MGT CTEE the Trustees and I have been calling for this for decades but with little improvement as many still do not provide an Inventory of its Real Estate-Gold Items-Other Assets all of which may have substantial value.
    I have nothing against any candidate as all are sincere and honest ethical and with integrity [as were the past MGT CTEES members] and now i congratulate the new MGT CTEE members and hope that the LIFT WILL BECOME A REALITY AS MORE THAN ’10 BARSIS’ HAVE PASSED AND EACH OF THE PAST MGT CTEES MEMBER PROMISED BUT FAILED TO DELIVER.
    I do not wish to continue the discussion on the AGM as it may not serve any purpose.

    Gur Fateh

  2. Sardar Sarabjeet Maan Ji. Thank you for your response and comments. Each has own views and I respect yours. I will not comment further as it will not be in the benefit of the Sanggat.

    My best wishes to the new Management Committee and only hope is that they will be able to do what is expected from any Mgt Ctee and that is the practice of TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY and succeed in getting the lift which has had its more than ten barsis and still awaited by the needy Sanggat.

    I have been very vocal for decades on the need and importance of TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF FINANCES AND ASSETS OF TRUST FUNDS and will continue to do so. Views/comments of others are welcome but except of one or two the rest have remained silent or may not be interested in these aspects. Trust Funds are most susceptible to MISMANAGEMENT-FRAUD-CORRUPTION and the risks continue due to lack of interest of members and Gurdwaras are not exempt as I have personally observed during my over four decades of audit experience/observations.

    I am not pointing finger at anyone or accusing anyone but is a general observation as there may be some who may have witnessed but chose to remain silent as initially all are presumed to be honest-ethical-integrity with service in mind but over time some change and may lose these value if there is lack/weak oversight/monitoring. My humble apologies if anyone were to misunderstand.

    However your comment ‘Bhai, don’t be a crab and pull each other down la’ is personal and was uncalled for.
    Any way that is freedom of speech.

    Gur Fateh

  3. Bhai Gursharan. While you sit here mocking the process above, it becomes clear that you were unhappy with the results. Everything works with due process and even the publication of this article can be seen as an exercise in politicising a mandate of selfless service to the Gurudwara. I have been attending PJ Gurudwara for many years and I have to honestly say I’ve never even seen this Baldev chap ever. Your vociferous arguments over the election process is disgraceful. PJ prides itself on being at the heartlands of an educated public. If you have no idea on how to cast a vote I would seriously be in favour of running a basic qualifications test for yourself prior to allowing you to. Issue such comments. My dad went to vote and he told me that it went smoothly apart from some usual clowns trying to cry foul as usual. From what I hear Baldev was offered a VPs nomination nut refrained from contesting. Bhai, don’t be a crab and pull each other down la. It’s been the Goto Gurudwara which attracts the largest crowds in the country because someone has been doing something right. If your team lost, work harder and try to convince the sanggat you’re a better option. Don’t show up every two years during the election campaign and then cry foul when the sanggat sees through your devious ways.

  4. There may be others who attended the GSPJ AGM on 14.5.17 who may have been dissatisfied with the election process. Thus it is only appropriate that those who had some views to voice them and the best avenue is the Asia Samachar website.
    Lack of response or comments and silence may only give the perception that those who came to the AGM were either satisfied or had ‘tidak apa’ attitude and thus the members deserve what they received.

    There will be no further comments by me on the AGM election process. However if there are any responses to my comments or additional comments by others then I receive the right to response.

    Gur Fateh.

  5. If anyone who attended the AGM has any response or comments then they should voice them and not remain silent as silence may indicate that they agree with the what happened and how the AGM was conducted.

    I am aware that I may be accused by some as being a trouble maker for my above comments but it is my view that voicing my comments via the Asia Samachar is a better mode instead of having voiced them at the AGM as this mode reaches many including those who could not attend the AGM for whatever reason.

    There will be no more comments from me on this AGM but in case of any comments by others then I reserve my right to respond/comment.

    NOT MALICE INTENDED.

    Gur Fateh

  6. Another aspect that raised my ire about to-day’s election at the PJGS AGM was that most of the voting members may not have known much or anything about the candidates standing for election for the 11 positions in Mgt Ctee as no bio-data or other personal details were provided. In past elections the candidates normally introduced themselves so that members would know some info about them but this time this was not possible as voting was the first business of the day even before the AGM had formally been commenced.
    Can some one clarify whether this is in line with the By-laws of GSPJ?

    There were two teams contesting and each had its own list of candidates but none of the lists provided any information about the candidates and still the supporters of the teams were canvassing for their respective team candidates.

    Apologies if I am wrong as I did not attend last year’s AGM and thus not aware of any changes having been approved to the By-laws.

    I have been advocating the importance and need for TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY in respect of FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTS. GSPJ, like many other Gurdwaras, DOES NOT LIST ITS REAL ESTATE ASSETS [currently the PJGS old building which is rented out at RM600.00 pm and the main Gurdwara Builidng Complex where the AGM is held] The combined value of these two assets is a few millions of RM but they are not reflected in the Audited Financial Statements and neither is any inventory of other assets which may include golden ornaments. It is important that an INVENTORY OF ALL ASSETS INCLUDING THEIR ESTIMATED VALUE SHOULD BE SHOWN AS A NOTE TO THE ACCOUNTS.

    I also could not ascertain the names of the Trustees of GSPJ Assets as there may have been named persons some of whom may have departed this mortal world and whose positions should have been filled by others.

    I could not raise the above matters as I had to leave the AGM after my voting rights were denied to me for no fault of mine and for which I again apologize if i am wrong though I do not think I was wrong.

    Gur Fateh

    and the

  7. The more money is involved the more will be the desire to get control. WISE USE MONEY BUT FOOLD ACCUMULATE and sadly accumulation of money appears to have become the main objective of most.
    It starts with the justification that one should have sufficient accumulated moneys so as not to be dependent on external income but then the QUANTUM OF SUFFICIENT MONEY CONTINUES TO EXPAND AS THERE IS NO LIMIT TO GREED.
    More was done with less money and LESS IS DONE WITH MORE MONEY and Gurdwara Mgt Ctees do not appear to be any different.
    Gur Fateh

  8. I was at the AGM of the GSPJ this morning and registered to vote and was given the ballot paper for the 11 Committee Members posts and the post of Hon Secretary. I then left the enclosure to fill the ballot papers and have a cup of tea which was outside the area barricaded by benches. I was neither advised that I will not be allowed to put my ballot papers in the two boxes nor stopped when I left the area but was immediately stopped by one of the candidates from casting my ballot as I had left the area even when another candidate had said it was okay but then changed his view on the direction of the candidate who had stopped me from voting even when he had seen me leaving and filling the ballot papers and returning all in less than five minutes.
    In spite of appeal and request the candidate refused to change his mind and allow me to cast my ballot and thus in disgust of his unilateral/dictatorial attitude I tore the ballot papers and placed them in the rubbish bin outside.
    MY COMPLAINT IS THAT THERE WAS NO SIGN OR ADVISE BY ANYONE WHO WAS REGISTERING OR GIVING THE BALLOT PAPERS TO THE EFFECT THAT VOTING MUST BE DONE BEFORE LEAVING THE ENCLOSED AREA AS FAILURE TO DO WILL RESULT IN ME NOT BEING ABLE TO CAST MY VOTE. ANOTHER COMPLAINT IS THAT THE CANDIDATE DID NOT ADVISE OR STOP ME WHEN I WAS LEAVING THE AREA.
    I then proceeded to advise others waiting outside to register to bear this in mind. I wonder whether I was the only one effected or were there others and if there were and if anyone of them were to report to ROS then what would be the fate of this election and the position of the new office bearers.

    Gur Fateh

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