Gurdwaras turn to savings to keep things going

There has been no income from golak, mehta thek, karah parshad and other donations from the Sangat - Kota Kinabalu gurdwara secretary Amarjit Kaur

Gurdwara officials (clockwise from left): Amrick Singh (Subang), Gurmukh Singh (SGSS Singapore), Sourjan Singh (Kuantan), Amarjit Kaur (Kota Kinabalu), Ranjit Singh (Kajang) and Gurcharan Singh (Sungai Petani)
By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |

Many gurdwaras in Malaysia and Singapore saw their regular income stream disrupted by measures deployed to break the spread of Covid-19, forcing them to resort to their savings to keep things going.

For smaller gurdwaras with little reserves, they have had to call upon local well-wishers to fill the gap.

Asia Samachar spoke to a number of gurdwara management committee members in both the neigbouring countries to take stock of the situation as countries globally respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our funding has been affected. There has been no income from golak, mehta thek, karah parshad and other donations from the Sangat,” said Kota Kinabalu gurdwara secretary Amarjit Kaur. “We had to use our existing reserve funds to manage the gurdwara.”

Sri Guru Singh Sabha (SGSS) Singapore treasurer Gurmukh said that Covid-19 has also impacted the finances of the gurdwara.

“Various programmes booked by member’s had to be cancelled. That had greatly affected our finances as that is the main source of revenue for the gurdwara. Weekly Sangat donations were surely affected,” he said.

The situation is pretty similar for other gurdwaras.

However, dozens of gurdwaras in both countries have continued to provide Langgar, or free meals, to the needy. These have been largely funded by direct donations.

Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) president Jagir Singh said he had spoken to more than a dozen gurdwara committee presidents who confirmed that the gurdwara income from individual offerings have more or less dried up.

“There was some collection when someone came to matha tekh. This matha tekh money amounted to less than 5 percent of the average gurdwara charava (collection) earlier on a monthly basis,” he said.

Malaysia rolled out a movement control order (MCO) on 18 March that required all places of religious worship, including gurdwaras, to cease all prayer gatherings. Singapore implemented its set of preventive measures called a “circuit breaker” since 7 April which also placed restrictions on gurdwara programmes.

Malaysia will allow selected places of worship to operate under strict conditions 10 June onwards.

In neigbouring Singapore, gurdwaras will be allowed to operate under strict conditions starting Tuesday (2 June). Gurdwaras will be open from 8am to 6pm and only up to five households will be allowed in for private worship and to ‘mehta tekh’ (pay respects to Guru Granth Sahib).

Here are the responses by some gurdwaras contacted by Asia Samachar.

Dr Kalwinder Singh, representing the Kuching gurdwara, at an event in September 2019 – Photo: GS Kuching Facebook
Dr Kalwinder Singh,

Funding has definitely been affected by the MCO and CMCO as the gurdwara closed and no functions were held.

For us, our car park which generates income was also closed. Luckily it has reopened with the opening of businesses. We also get income from rental (though we expect it to be reduced) and fixed deposit intetest. So, we will be able to manage for the near future.

Even when gurdwaras reopen, incomes will still be low as Sangat attendance will be restricted and programmes reduced. This I suppose will go on for a while. Having said that, expenditure is also reduced but not by much as fixed expenditures like utilities and salaries still need to be paid.

We have not done any request or canvassing for donation for our gurdwara. However, individual members of sangat have donated or have been encouraged to donate to worthy causes here and also in Kuala Lumpur to those who are helping those more affected during these trying times. I think they need it more than us at this time.

MCO has brought up new ideas and norms which we will need to incorparate in the future. For example, langgar hall sitting, distancing, serving of langgar and cleanliness.
We will have to relook at them when the time comes to restart.

In Kuching, the MCO will delay gurdwara expansion plans. We will hold on and only start at a later date once the situation is safe.

Our Punjabi school on Saturdays has not been running. We’re not sure when it will restart.

Gurmukh Singh

COVID-19 certainly has impacted the finances of the gurdwara. Various programmes booked by member’s had to be cancelled. That had greatly affected our finances as that is the main source of revenue for the gurdwara. Weekly Sangat donations were surely affected.

We has also just completed the Darbar Sahib renovations and donations were still coming in. That had stopped, too, whilst some outstanding works will resume after Covid-19.

We still have to pay for our expenses: salaries, utilities charges and food for the staff. This has caused some strain our finances as we have to draw on our “reserves”.

Whilst we have tried our best to keep the Sangat connected to the gurdwara, we feel the moral of the staff, especially the granthi, has been affected. A gurdwaras without Sadh Sangat is really baron. There really is no certainty that things be as normal as pre-covid.

To keep the Sangat connected with gurdwara, we broadcast daily live streaming prayers. We are improving the equipment to be able to provide better coverage to Sangat. This has incurred some substantial cost. We feel its money well spent to reach out to Sangat, especially the elderly, which make up a huge percentage of our Sangat.

At the same time, we have ramped up housekeeping and maintaining cleaniness of the premises.

Sourjan Singh

The gurdwara income stream has completely stopped since MCO started. We had to depend on our saving and the goodwill of the Sangat. Some have come forward to support with donations when needed.

The main concern now is how can we keep the Sangat safe when we reopen.

Gurcharan Singh

The gurdwara was affected funding wise but many sewadars came forward to help out.

We had broadcast messages to all Sangat members to help out the needy families here. The gurdwara has been providing food ration to the underprivileged and families effected by the pandemic. Some members have contributed daswand via golak while others bank in directly into the gurdwara account.

Our major challenge was the three deaths within two weeks in this area. It was tough for everyone. With Waheguru ji’s blessing, volunteers came forward to assist.

Amrick Singh

Due to the MCO, Gurdwara Sahib Subang has not conducted any Sanggati programmes. Due to the its absence, the golak has been seriously impacted. We had to postpone payments of the friendly loans until sufficient funds are available. We have paid salaries of the sevadars (gurdwara staff) in full but the cash flow is drying up. Hence, we have appealed for donations to ensure we are able to meet our financial obligations.

We carried out the daily obligatory ceremonies. The gurdwara was not under lock down, so members of the Sanggat were allowed to visit for matha tek and such. Only parshad was available. No tea or langgar.

The gurdwara has also been conducting e-satsangs on Fridays (7 – 8pm) and Sundays (9.30 to 10.30am). The e-istrisatsang will commence weekly on Wednesdays from 2 to 3pm. Such e-prayers will be continued upon request.

Ranjit Singh

We are fine with cashflow mainly due to fixed monthly rental of RM3,500 coming in which is sufficent to cover all expenses of the gurdwara.

We continued to request donations for purchase of groceries and we have helped a number of Punjabi families with providing them groceries through our energetic PECK team.

The only impact is on our collection for the building fund which has reduced a lot. We were lucky are the bank has deferred the RM20,000 monthly installments due to the MCO. However, we continue to accumulate the interest.

Amarjit Kaur

The MCO measures have definitely affected our funding. No income from golak, mehta thek, karah parshad and other donations from the Sangat. We need to pay the Granthi and other monthly expenses. We are using existing reserve fund to manage the gurdwara.

The cancellation of the various programmes, including Vaisakhi, has affected the Sangat bonding and interaction.

In the future, we have to be prepared for such eventualities. We need to look into other income streams for the gurdwara.

The Kota Kinabalu Gurdwara Sahib did its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by making donations to the Society for the Blind, Red Crescent, Volunteer Police, Luyang Police Station, Jabatan Bekalan Air Sabah and other needy families and organisations.

Sabah Sikh Club (SSC) also did their CSR by making donations to Sabah Society for the Blind and Red Crescent Society who assisted to donate to 50 needy families.



Is Covid-19 really a big deal for gurdwaras? (Asia Samachar, 30 May 2020)

8 Malaysian gurdwaras set to restart prayers under strict conditions (Asia Samachar, 22 May 2020)

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