Singapore Sikhs told to prepare for major disruptions

"What worked in the past will not work in the future," Inderjit Singh, former MP, tells the one-day Sikh Voices Conference

ALL SMILES: Singapore Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat in a group photo with graduates of YSA’s Young Leaders Programme – Photo / Asia Samachar

By Hb Singh

The role of Government, existing Sikh institutions and education in the face of a fast-changing world that is constantly experiencing disruptions of various types were discussed at a recent Sikh conference in Singapore.

Conclusion: approaches and solutions will definitely change and people better start getting used to them. However, some things will remain constant.

“One of the key fundamentals that should not change is the core value of who we are, which is Sikhi, and the need for us to come together as a group and break, if there are any, barriers,” property consultant Karamjit Singh told the inaugural Sikh Voices Conference held on 11 November 2017.

“Your values as a community, as a religion, as people and as citizens of this country, as human beings, those should not be dictated by technology. Technology is amoral. It will do what you want it to do. You have to keep continuity the things that have led you over thousands of years of civilisation,” said Devadas Krishnadas, a former civil servant and now a management consultant.

They were among the seven panelists and some 150 participants of the one-day conference organised by the Young Sikh Association Singapore (YSA).

Singapore Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat gave a presentation on ‘What if Singapore’s Organising Principles Change?’ at the conference held at the Raffles Town Cub. The event also saw the launch of a new book, Sikh Voices (Vol 1): Traits of Future Leaders, edited by Alisha Gill and Malminderjit Singh.


“What worked in the past will not work in the future,” said former parliamentarian and entrepreneur Inderjit Singh, another panelist at the conference. But that is not all. In fact, he warned that what we see today may no longer be around, or remain relevant, tomorrow.

Touching on hyper globalisation, he said some 75% of the S&P 500 companies are expected to be removed from the United States stock market index that captures the largest 500 public listed companies on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq.

“That’s just 10 years away,” he said, indicating the speed at which major changes are engulfing the world.

On the impact on society, he said there is a time lag between rate of job destruction and rate of job creation. By 2030, half of the present jobs are expected to be eliminated, while in 10 years time, 40% of production jobs will be gone.

Inderjit, founder/CEO of Solstar International, was a panel member for the first session entitled ‘Singapore’s Economy & International Standing’. The other panelists were Devadas who is the founder/CEO of management consulting firm Future-Moves Pte Ltd and Asia Growth Capital Advisors (Singapore) Chairman/CEO Harjit Singh.

The panel members of the second panel session, entitled ‘Sustainability of the Sikh Community Institutions’, were Advocatus Law LLP partner Harjean Kaur, educator Sarabjeet Singh, senior community leader Surjit Singh Wasan and Karamjit who is a senior consultant at JLL Singapore.


One common theme that emerged from many speakers was the the future role of the Singapore government.

Devadas said that the thing that needs to be disrupted most is the government.

“Instead of the Government’s thinking infecting the private sector, the private sector success will infect the Government,” he said.

On this topic, Inderjit said: “I’m not saying challenge and break the Government. Let them do what they are doing. But in the new economy, with hyper globalisation, we don’t need to worry about what the government does. We should be thinking about what opportunities we can get from all over the world, and not Singapore.”

Second panel of the Sikh Voices Conference in progress – Photo / Asia Samachar


Education emerged as a major issue. Devadas feels that the best and the brightest in Singapore should go into entrepreneurship.

“What we need is for our brightest people going out there and creating businesses and companies, building technologies, and finding solutions to real-world needs, and making a profit out of it. When all your best minds are administrating, then the answer to everything is the administrative rule or regulation or plans.

“But when you’re out there in the economy, building businesses, competing internationally, then the answer to everything is the next best idea that you can come up with,” he said.

On his part, Inderjit identified one problem: Student pursuing degrees for the the mere sake of a degree. Here, he brought to the conference’s attention how the Singapore government plans to stop sponsoring students for Masters degrees, especially for technology and engineering.

“It’s no point sponsoring them because the specialisation is going to change [when they graduate],” he said.

In October, Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) said it will review funding and delivery arrangements of master’s programmes at the autonomous universities. Some S$70 million funding will instead be redirected towards providing continuing education and training under a new SkillsFuture scheme over the next three years. These are bite-sized courses targeting key sectors of growth.

“Let’s not get too stressed about the education system. Let’s learn how to learn, have the ability to have continuous learning. Don’t get too stressed about getting a string of A’s. The world has changed,” said Inderjit.

Still on education, Harjit sensed a missing link when it comes to Singapore students.

“Singapore students excel academically. What is missing is inquisitiveness. Just being good academically does not mean you will be a good entrepreneur. In fact, most of the successful entrepreneurs the world over have been people who may not have been very good students, getting 100 out of 100. But they are inquisitive, questioning things. Can I solve that problem, looking at things in different ways. You need that in education: openness to idea, questioning the norms, thinking out of the box,” he said.

In a nutshell, he said students must be equipped with the ability to think, embrace technology and take risks.

“There must be a certain sense of…maybe not desperation.. but hunger. The government has a role initially but the people have to move,” he said.

To move forward, Inderjit said future entrepreneurs should work on areas where there already have some knowledge. “Be good at what you’re doing, keep improving at it. Avoid the temptation of this ‘me-too’, doing what others are doing,” he said.

He also urged fellow Singaporeans to discard this mindset that they are small, expressing confidence that they can create global companies if they target the global market from the onset.

“If we think ‘Let me succeed in Singapore first, then I’ll go global’, it will be too late. The moment you have an idea, other smart people like you would have thought of the idea, and implemented it globally. If you have a great idea, don’t be afraid. If you don’t have a great idea, and you just want to copy someone, please don’t do it,” he said.


For Sikh institutions, Karamjit touched on areas where they could cooperate better.

“The commonalities among the successful technology companies are that they are driven by youth energy, strong passion, strong leadership, but it is also about sharing of resources….Each of us have resources, but we don’t necessarily maximise the utilisation of these resources.

“But if we come together as a group, we can leverage on each other’s down time and make better use of our collective resources,” he told the conference.


[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:] 16702


Hearing voices of Singapore Sikh community (Asia Samachar, 11 Nov 2017)

Cy-blur gurdwara council (Asia Samachar, 21 Nov 2017)

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  1. In response to Sardar Gurcharan Singh ji of Kulim’s comment that

    “I was even tickled, when the esteem Sr Gursharan Singh giving his opinion, referred to the “fathers abroad taking court actions to defend the Sikh turbans…….” left the MOTHERS OUT, who not take equal part in such campaigns, but look after the hair,wash, clean and knot it, often also helping with small patkas and turbans etc….. Sr Gursharan Singh ji, advertently or by choice did not see the importance of Sikh females….quite perhaps understandably, because of the ingrained idea of “sikh culture”of the snatani babas , that females role is within the kitchen! ”.

    For his information I have been very vocal of the neglect of role and importance of women in MALE DOMINATED societies including SIKH COMMUNITY and recognition of their importance. His attention is invited to two of my articles which were published in the ASIA SAMACHAR.
    Also attention is invited to my following COMMENT to a Comment to Sikhnet on an article titled ‘The Revolution Won’t Be Televised (but it may be filmed!) dated 17.7.2013 by Mallika Kaur.
    ‘Women have been and are being sidelined throughout the world in almost all countries and religions. Sikhi provides for equality but that is more in words than in deeds. I have written two articles ‘Women Property of Men’ and ‘Women – Double Standards’. In cases where women have succeeded the beginning was mainly and in most cases by the backing of a man. The women who have succeeded in their individual spheres most have had to pay a heavy price in terms of relationships and society.
    Workforce used to be divided between the home that was the domain of the women and the outside world that was the responsibility of the men. It worked perfectly until the women were ill-treated/abused or not respected by the men folk and the man-dominated society. This made the women to educate their daughters to be financially independent and the result is the many career and financially independent women and this trend has continued since the first world war. Women have been seen as a new workforce in the economy and supported by politicians and economists. The result is that the households are neglected and are being managed by low paid maids. The position is further aggravated by the newly independent women who do get married are not willing to trust their own elder women relations but rather outsource the family and household to maids and this has resulted in broken homes, wayward husbands and children, neglected parents and general breakdown in family values. Even to-day the case of killing yet to be borne female children is widespread and the rising rate of rape and many countries.
    Who is responsible? – Mainly the men and the male dominated society with the collusion of women relatives and outdated customs, cultures and laws approved by those men in power as women legislators and NGOs may be there just as cosmetics or tolerated as some of them may be associated/related to men in power.

    If women want equality then they must fight for it and be ready for a bloody war as the men are not going to let go the power they have over women who are treated as their properties. Remember the marriage ceremonies of Hindus [Kanyadaan-donation], Sikhs [Palla-transfer of responsibility], Christians [Father giving away the bride] and Muslims [Wali approval]. In all the cases the transfer is done by a man to another man and the bride must be packed as a present who is to be complete with jewelry and other forms of wealth.’

    I hope the above will clear any doubt about my views on the status and treatment of women by male dominated societies.

  2. Just being the devils advocate,it is interesting that people who complained unnecessarily and irritantly, about the non dupatta wearing Sikh ladies’,photo taken outside Gurduara, have NOT uttered a word about these non Sikh looking, or visible youngsters?
    I guess they will says they are outside a Gurduara too!

    But, that is not the point,the point I believe is , the complaints were just exhibiting the deeply ingrained SIKH MALE CHAUVINISM towards women!

    I was even tickled, when the esteem Sr Gursharan Singh giving his opinion, refered to the “fathers abroad taking court actions to defend the Sikh turbans…….”left the MOTHERS OUT , who not take equal part in such campaigns, but look after the hair,wash, clean and knot it, often also helping with small patkas and turbans etc…..

    Sr Gursharan Singh ji, advertently or by choice did not see the importance of Sikh females….quite perhaps understandably, because of the ingrained idea of “sikh culture”of the snatani babas , that females role is within the kitchen!

    With no malice to the Scotsman,Angus MCay or Sr Gursharan Singh ji!, nor anyone, despite the frustrations of some!!!

  3. In a changing world it will be important for religious teachings may also need to change and this would also apply to SIKHISM. While the core values such as honesty-ethics-integrity-fairness-respect/consideration for others are eternal the ceremonies-formats-customs-etc and their value/importance may also change.
    Some examples are provided below which may be needed to be considered by Sikh Leadership.
    [Based on personal observations]
    # It may be important for Gianis/Raagis/Kathakars/Preachers to give examples of not only past events used but also to provide recent/current events/situations if they are to be accepted by the followers especially the Y-Gen.
    #Sikh teaching is that all are equal and thus langgar in the past was served and all were mandated to sit on the floor. This was the interpretation of ‘equality and all are same in Gurdwara’. But today the practise in several Gurdwaras is for either to sit on benches or to queue in a line to collect the langgar while in some only one of the two systems is used and in some Gurdwaras both systems are used.
    # Rumalas are offered but none realize that the money spent on them may be a waste of funds as the expensive rumalas may later be just dumped as rubbish as was shown recently in one video which went viral on social media]. The same may apply to offering of utensils/etc after the antim ardas of any deceased.
    #Transparency and Accountability including of Financial Management was standard culture during the time of Guru Jis and the Masands but today both these requirements appear to be missing and most of those responsible rarely providing any response, if any.
    # Some so-called holy men sit on the floor when taking langgar with justification that this was the practise during the time of the Guru Jis but the same ‘holy men’ find nothing wrong in travelling by air and a-c cars and requiring a-c 5* accommodation/treatment from the Sanggat.
    # Guru Gobind Singh Ji said in 1699 when He created Khalsa that ‘I will create a group where even one will be recognized in a crowd of lakh[100,000]’ but to-day some Sikhs cannot be recognized in any crowd and some may even have stopped using the Guru Ji’s given name of SINGH and KAUR or even the identity.
    # In the case of cremations of the dead some insist on being cremated by wood and fire and claiming with justification that that is the ‘Sikh’ way.
    # Akhand paths are organized but there is rarely a case where there is any Sanggat especially at night and in some cases family members who organize it either in the Gurdwara Ji or in their houses seem to be absent and some family members appear to forget the Path and may be too busy and not return home.
    # Praises in Gurdwaras should only be of the Guru Jis but some Granthi not only praise the family members with qualities which some may not even have and in one case The Granthi Ji even compared the person with qualities of Guru Nanak Ji by saying that both went out of their way to look for people who needed help.
    # Guru Jis advocated the use of Funds to help the sick and needy which can be assistance for education, commerce or even for helping the poor to wed their children. But some Managements may be more interested in just limiting usage of funds for religious purposes or construction new buildings or expanding existing building/facilities sizes even though the size of Sanggat numbers may not justify them.
    Remember the Gurdwara buildings as in Leeds-UK and may be in other places, were previously a Christian Church which was sold possibly due to lack of worshippers and this may happen in some Gurdrwara buildings in remote places in Peninsular Malaysia which have signs of abandonment and may have ceased to be a Gurdwara Sahib due to lack of Sanggat and this can also happen in urban areas where there may be more than one Gurdwara Sahib within one mile of each other and Sanggat diminishing.

    There may be many other cases of which others could be aware and hope they will come forward for future of Sikhs and Sikhi.

    Finally GURU JIS TAUGHT SIKHS TO BE SELF SUFFICIENT AND CHARITABLE BY DONATING TO OTHERS AND NEVER TO BEG/ASK/SEEK DONATIONS FROM N0N-SIKHS. But sadly to-day may Sikh leaders actively seek financial assistance/donations from non-Sikhs/Organizations/Agencies/Authorities for Gurdwaras/Sikh Projects to help Sikhs. I remember that SGPC rejected the offer of REPAIR OF SRI HARMANDIR SAHIB JI [GOLDEN TEMPLE] and AKAL TAKHAT after it was badly DAMAGED IN 1984 UNDER THE BLUE STAR ON THE ORDERS OF THE THEN INDIAN PM.
    Have Sikhs become SEEKERS OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE from NON-SIKHS AS IT WILL BE A SAD DAY FOR SIKHS AS A NATION? I am not aware of any Jew seeking financial assistance from any non-Jews [USA assistance to Israel is also Jewish] as most in financial leadership in USA are Jews] and late Giani Sand Singh Maskeen Ji compared Sikhs and Jew as two groups who were GIVERS and NOT RECEIVERS.

    The objective of the above views/comments if for betterment of the Sikhi and Sanggat.
    Some may not agree with my views and to them are offered my humble apologies but there is no malice.

    Gur Fateh