Nanak Singh Nishter
15-3-137, Gowliguda Chaman,
Mobile: 0 98 48 35 31 05
Serving the Sikhs
I welcome the new trend of a variety of community welfare projects amongst the Sikhs and congratulate all who are pioneering such efforts. At the outset, I would like to say that all such efforts need direction, guidance, focus and impetus. The present situation is that most of these who have mushroomed over the last few years, do not have any past experience of working with other public organizations or other religious groups working for the upliftment of their people.
On the basis of my writings on the subject, I have received many a request from existing and new organisation regarding scope and methodology of planning and programming. In this article, I share with you my experience and present an outline of the projects that need to be pursued.
Expressing gratitude for the confidence reposed in me, let me give you a peep into my public life. By virtue of my nature and work, I have been a public activist since 1955. After my post-graduation from Osmania University in 1959, I continued unhindered my love for working for the public. To do so, I chose the independent profession of agricultural farming for which I purchased land adjoining Hyderabad city. Since then there has been no looking back. In these past decades of my life, I have been actively associated with Government welfare schemes, activism in several N.G.Os, various public and Panthic organizations. I am happy to share my experience through this piece. I would like readers and prospective welfare organisation to carefully absorb my observations regarding the working of organisations of other communities and share my vision to work not only hard, but work smart and intelligently.
Below Poverty Line:
All over India, all welfare schemes are designed in such a way to uplift the people of Below Poverty Line (BPL), in order to reap electoral benefits for political leaders and parties. All those living Below the Poverty Line are nurtured as Vote Banks.
All community groups are working to educate and make available the Welfare Schemes to their people. During the Constituent Assembly proceedings for framing the Constitution of India, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar placed a proposal for reservation of a certain percentage of seats in education, employment and scholarships for the deserving people of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Then the high caste Hindu lobby refused to consider the matter. When he threatened to resign from the Constituent Assembly and its chairmanship, the high caste buckled and accepted the proposal. The rest as they say is history. This simple step brought about a sea change, a revolution in the lives of the downtrodden people, who were suppressed for thousands of years.
In the Presidential Order list of SC/ST 1950, only Hindu members were listed in SC/ST categories, leaving out all other religions. The North-Eastern Christian lobby was successful in getting it amended for Scheduled Tribes of any religion. Under the leadership of Master Tara Singh, after a determined campaign for 6 long years, by launching a Morcha, the SC Sikhs also got their due birth and constitutional rights in 1956 and were included in the list. Similarly, in 1990, under the leadership of Ram Vilas Paswan, the SC Buddhists got their rights after 40 years of struggle, at par with the Sikhs. Some of the Hindu communities are agitating for inclusion the list. The Christians and Muslims are struggling hard to get the status for their converts. The Muslims are getting Backward Status in almost all the states - one after another.
The Present Position of the Sikhs:
We lack Panthic leadership. Every one of us is a leader without any past experience, with no or negligible achievement, inflated ego and no desire to learn and incorporate the time-tested and effective ways of working of other communities. There seems to be no desire to evolve new systems.
When I plead for availing all available government benefits, many amongst us, oppose it saying that Sikhs are a casteless society and therefore to talk or do anything to reap benefits on the basis of caste, is against the tenets of the Sikh religion.
In essence, Sikhism is a religion-less society. Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji developed the unique concept of Shri Guru Nanak Sahb Ji, “Na ko Hindu – Na Musalman”. He gave us a new call, “mwns kI jwq sBY, eykY pihcwnbo]”(Recognize Human Race as one community). Guru Sahib transformed and designated the Sikhs as “Wahguru Ji Ka Khalsa”, i.e., sovereign people of wondrous God.
Some of the Sikhs who oppose the efforts to avail the benefits in the communities of reservation categories are wagging the tail of their obsolete Hindu Caste along with their Sikh name of Singh. (In my case, the word ‘Nishter’ is my pen name as I am an Urdu poet). In the name of castes they discriminate among the Sikhs, for religious, social and marital purposes. They have gone to the extent of constructing Gurdwaras in the name of castes. Sadly, those who oppose either do not practice Sikhism as a way of life themselves or shy away from the need and duty of Daswandh. Still they are very vehement in their opposition of availing government benefits in the name of castes for the most deserving and neglected Sikhs.
In the year 2005, “The 61st Round Survey of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO – organization in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation of the Government of India) found that almost one-third of the Sikhs in India belonged to the notified Scheduled Castes of the constitution. Among them 30.70% are Scheduled Castes and 0.90% are Scheduled Tribes.” (The number of Backward Classes is not taken into account in this survey). I wonder if the self-righteous sections of Sikhs who continue to live in ivory towers are even aware of this and when such awareness dawns on them, are they prepared to change their thinking, mend their ways, plan and work for the ignored and marginalised sections?
Regarding availing the minority scholarship, the then Minister for Minority Affairs, made an alarming statement on the floor of Parliament that, “During the year 2007-2008, the Sikh community had a quota of 2,540 scholarships but received only 50 applications throughout the country. And not even a single application has come from Punjab”. The government of India fixes quota on population basis, but all states and Union Territories give scholarship to all communities from one pool only.
I initiated a “Movement of Awareness”, by speaking at Gurdwaras, publishing articles in The Sikh Review, Abstracts of Sikh Studies, World Sikh News, Sikh Phulwari in Punjabi and Hindi and several other magazines and papers, sending e-mails to individuals, institutions and to different discussion groups across the country. Fortunately, the campaign worked. In fact it received an overwhelming response. The Kalgidhar Trust, Baru Sahib and its subsidiaries, Sukrit, Forum for Forgotten Sikhs, Nishkam, Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, the International Sikh Confederation and other organizations and several individuals actively motivated our people across the country to file applications for Minority scholarships. As a result, a large number of student beneficiaries received scholarships to the tune of lakhs of rupees. The significant point is that, once initiated, as long as the paper work is properly and diligently done, the benefit of this scholarship will continue to be available to the current beneficiaries for all their educational pursuits.
New Right to Education Act:
The much spoken “Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education - Act 2009” is beneficial to all open categories of people. This has made mandatory for the Governments to give free school education and also for all private schools to give 25% students free admissions. The Minorities, Backward Classes and S.Cs & S.Ts already have a vast number of handsome scholarships and total free admissions to almost all the professional courses with fees reimbursement by the Government, increasing incentives to the students for the early to later categories respectively up to the Ph.D. level.
Working of Sikh Organisations:
Among the organisations working for Sikhs, many are starved of resources, a few have created a corpus fund through which they run their affairs and there are growing numbers of those who squander their resources in areas which are the responsibility of the government. These organisations are spending vast sums on primary education, health, housing, sanitation and other welfare projects, which are essentially the prime responsibility of the government. If only part of the resources is spent on professional managers, activists and counsellors, it would be possible to partake of all of the government benefits.
For these BPL Sikhs, Gurdwaras are built and in some areas they are subsequently asked to meet the day to day expenses of Gurdwaras and salary of a Giranthi. No thought goes into thinking that this increases the economic burden on those families, who cannot feed and educate their own children? The Muslim and Christian men and women volunteers go to their people weekly or as per convenience to educate them about the Scriptures, philosophy and practices of their respective religion, without financially burdening them. Can we not have activists, volunteer and paid doing more outreach and interaction programmes and activities? This would be a welcome move not only for the BPL Sikhs, but for the entire community.
Academicians all over the world plead for early school education in mother tongue or in the communicative local language by the children for their proper mental growth and understanding. Mr. P.V.Narsimha Rao, the Priminister, Dr. M. Chenna Reddy – the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, and many others people of international repute have done their Medicine, Law, Engineering and Science through Urdu Medium from Osmania University, Hyderabad. However, there is an unhealthy trend of unduly expensive education through English medium to the students whose parents are not aware of English or those English knowing parents who cannot support their children in studies at home. As a result, though organisations are spending huge money, they are increasing the number of school dropouts, very slow and limited progress and frustration for parents, society and the funding bodies. I strongly advocate that education in the mother tongue for all BPL Sikhs or in the local language is imperative. Efforts to foist English must be resisted and sincere efforts to coach the brightest amongst the lot in English must be done at later stage.
Let me share my first hand experience with you. I am the Chief Functionary of Guru Nanak Dev Trust, Hyderabad. Though the work was started much earlier, it was registered in 1989. We don’t seek funds, voluntarily donations are gratefully accepted and added towards the Corpus Fund; we spend 80% of its proceeds and add the rest 20% to the Corpus Fund. Our services are for counselling and meeting the total needs of the Sikh students at their door steps without calling for formal applications. We don’t disperse annual scholarships to the candidates. It has been our experience that much of the scholarship amounts are used by parents for other purposes as their pecuniary situation is bad. We adopt only such candidates who avail government benefits. We extend finances to meet the exorbitant coaching expenses of competitive examinations for admissions into professional courses, coaching for recruitment of the services, for higher education, project works, books and stationary and their personal needs. We locate and provide career counselling depending on their performance during school studies. We are committed that no meritorious student should be deprived from higher and purposeful education for want of funds, so in some cases we assist during school by providing extra coaching or tuition fees.
I will quote a few luminaries of the Guru Nanak Dev Educational Trust. I am quoting their community background just for your information not otherwise. One Sikligar Sikh, who was earlier in the open category (In 2009 Sikligar community is included in B.C. List of A.P.), Sardar Tagore Singh is from a remote village of Miryalguda of Nalgonda district, passed 1st division B.E. in 1984. He studied through Telugu medium in a Government school and college. While serving in Government Polytechnic, Hyderabad, he did part time M.Tech., in 2006, he passed with distinction obtaining 78% marks.
Dr. Sardar Laxman Singh is a Banjara Sikh (from the S.T. Category in A.P.) from the remote village Shankapur of Medak district. He studied through Telugu medium in Government school and college, got admission and passed M.B.B.S. in the year 1994. He was assisted for entrance test coaching for M.D. and hostel charges, but could not get a seat. However he is presently working as Assistant Civil Surgeon.
Sardar Narinder Singh is a Banjara Sikh from the same village, had government school and college education through Telugu medium and is presently pursuing M.Pharmacy. A Banjara Rau Ji alias Sardar Ranjit Singh from Suryapet village of Nalgonda district, studied through Telugu medium up to B.A., was assisted to get admission and study M.B.A., got coaching for Group-1 Examination of A.P.Public Service Commission, but could not succeed in any due to his family circumstances. There are many others who have passed B.E., B.Pharmacy and other courses. A majority of them are from Telugu medium education in Government school and college.
Our Duty and Responsibility:
The question which should bother and seize us is, “How can we benefit a student from Class I to Ph.D.?” Each and every Sikh is entitled to get government benefits in one or other above mentioned categories, below certain income limit for each level. For that purpose, naturally, we have to make a formal application at the beginning of the academic year in the prescribed Application Form. No need to go anywhere, at the click of the mouse, you can download from the website and get all information. After completing all the simple formalities and filling all the columns with the required information and attaching the required certificates, you have to present it to the concerned head of the institution.
The government schemes are like a river, starting from Himalayan Mountains which never dries throughout the year, as its source is not dependent on the rain water but also benefits from the melting snow in the hot summer. Funding from organisations can dry up any time, except those who create resources, generate resources and manage them professionally. Remember, all rivers running and flooding with rain water dry up in summer. The Government source are perennial. It will not dry till the completion of the chose course depending upon the capacity of the student.
The process of availing government benefits is very simple. For getting the income, caste certificate etc., you have to approach the Tehsildar or District Social Welfare Officer of your area, enquire from the concerned clerk the formalities to complete for making application and do it accordingly. At several offices, you may be the first Sikh person to approach them. They may be surprised and not aware of your privileges and rights. Don’t be disheartened. Prepare yourself to follow up constantly. For getting the work done, catch hold of the local leader of your area – irrespective of the party he or she belongs, convince them that you are his voter (nobody can know or question whether you are or you are not).
The local leader will invariably help you for he requires your help at all kinds of elections. Notwithstanding the stature of the outsider good-intentioned person or organisation may be, what the local leader can do, no one can. For honourable survival and progress in Indian democracy, the only way is to increase the strength of your vote, by enrolling in large numbers in the voters list, ensuring the casting of votes en bloc and to be seen standing at queues at polling booths. Once you make the leader realise your potential, support will automatically follow.
In 2009, you have witnessed your strength of vote in Haryana, where the government was forced to declare Punjabi as the second official language of the State, after struggling 44 long years for this legitimate demand.
The priorities of the last century were Food, Clothing and Shelter. Gradually the focus shifted to literacy through school education. All state governments and the Union government are committed to provide school education free of cost. Spending the Daswandh resources of the community for the school educational needs instead of availing government facilities is the height of our ignorant, lethargic approach.
Pursuing the Andhra Pradesh government, in 1977, we were able to get house sites in Miryalguda of Nalgonda district, agricultural land at Shankapur of Medak district and at several other places. In 1994, we represented for inclusion of Sikligar community in the list of Backward Classes and got it included in 2009.
As the needs of the present century have changed, as competitiveness becomes the buzz word, as individuals contest with margins of one mark or less, the thrust has to be on equipping the present generation with purposeful higher education. Through coaching, counselling, training and re-training for excellence in all pursuits is the need of the hour.
Our Panthic Working:
Let us have a look at the Sikh philanthropic activities for welfare of our people. I have been unable to understand or digest as to from where some writers and activists got this brainwave that the communities - Satnamis, Banjaras, Lubanas, Sikligars are numbering 18 crores and that they are Guru Nanak Naam Leva Sikhs, living below the poverty line and that looking after them is the responsibility of the Sikh community. My humble submission, without the fear of any contradiction is that, to designate all persons of these communities as Sikhs, is nothing but a gimmick. You can see lakhs and lakhs of Hindus and some unfortunate Sikhs also going to the Tombs of Muslim saints across the country. At some places, they even outnumber the Muslims. Nobody says they are Muslims. They come there as it is their belief that they get Godly boons and gifts from that sacred place. I have never come across any Muslim person extending help towards them believing them to be Muslims. It is mandatory for the Muslims to give charity as Zakat and Fitra at their festival Id-ul-Fittr to the deserving Muslim persons alone. This cannot be given for building the Mosque, its maintenance and salaries.
Where as in our case, whoever comes to our Gurdwaras – irrespective of what the purpose and intention may be, we have a craze to call them Sikhs, in an attempt to boost our numbers! The tragedy is, we are least bothered to lead a life of a Sikh ourselves, to inject Sikhi in our own children and to make efforts to bring them up as good Sikhs. We are living in a fools’ paradise and are spending our resources blindly at the cost of those Sikhs who are living below poverty line for generations. In the above categories of people all are undoubtedly Hindus, except Sikligars. This a distorted word of “Saiqal+gar”, which is compound word of Persian language for the person who burnishes metal. They are Keshadahari Sikhs. They are not new converts. Both in urban and rural areas, they are economically very poor and live below the poverty line in hutments on land which too is not their own. They do not consume tobacco, gutka, pan masala and pan. Some of them consume liquor and consistent counselling and Parchar, as has been done in some areas, can enable us to bring them out of this habit. They do not trim their beards and no women pluck her eyebrows. They wear the Sikhi Kachchera. They do not marry outside their ethnic group. Once they used to be master armourers and due to the strict restrictions upon arms, have now turned highly skilled blacksmiths. Now they make house hold utensils and other equipments from iron scrap. They can hardly feed their family even though all males, females and even small children work hard the whole day. They don’t have money to educate their children; don’t get loans to purchase manufacturing equipments or new raw material to compete in the market. Whatever they make is on demand and not in anticipation of demand. Spread throughout the country, they are not well organised, though in recent times, sincere efforts by individuals and organisations are afoot to better their lot.
I know to say something against accepted norms invites controversies, and this has happened to me too many a time. When I have expressed my views in English and Punjabi on the lines mentioned above, my good friends and community well-wishers in various groups and organisations, have expressed disdain saying, “Do you think that all our work is in the wrong direction?” I understand that people who have fixated ideas very rarely change, unless such an intention comes from within after a thorough understanding and setting aside of wrongly held notions and beliefs.
I am of the strong opinion in view of the teachings of Shri Guru Granth Sahib and Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji that, serving the Sikhs should be our priority, the concept of Sarbat Da Bhala comes later. Even in the Ardas, it is at the end. Not only the Sikligars, but all other below poverty line Sikhs and those who have embraced Sikhism of the other communities should be taken care of to all extent possible. Others may follow. Sikhism is not a proselytising religion. We set examples and those convinced follow. This basic doctrine must be borne in mind by all our social organisations. We must not allow our already strained community resources to be frittered away on people who again revert back to their original fold, for their intentions are questionable.
In the year 1995 at the World Sikh Conference held at Amritsar under SGPC, where I was also a guest speaker and presented a paper on “Bleeding Sikhs”. The conference passed a resolution which could not attract the attention of our community so far. That is, "There is a need for change and adaptation to the challenging socio-political situation of a rapidly modernizing society. Education should have its aim at both the development of society and the realization of man's potentialities. So, the future of the Sikh community depends, to a great extent, upon the levels of education of the Sikh children. Men of vision and imagination realized this fact at the time of Vishav Sikh Sammelan in 1995. It was resolved that Quality Education should be imparted by all Sikh institutions."
Let us resolve to avail all government facilities for providing basic health, housing, sanitation, education and all other needs. And spend our Daswandh only on the Sikhs for their expensive and advancement needs to compete with the prevailing society in all respects, at par with all other advanced communities.
Coaching for IAS
The Muslims are said to be the most neglected, persecuted and pushed back community in India. In spite of this fact, they have made-up their mindset to rule this country and successfully spread a network for uplift of the community people in various fields through several organisations. As a result 21 Muslims have been selected for Civil Services (IAS, IPS, etc) this year 2010 in the open category and the topper is also a Muslim doctor from Kashmir. He has been given coaching at Hamdard Study Circle, Delhi, (established for Muslims in 1992) which has produced 9 candidates this year and so far produced 240 and 4 toppers among Muslims. If the proposed Muslim reservation among Backward Classes is materializes, the strength of Muslims will increase from 21 to 55 this year. But where do the Sikhs stand, spending crores of rupees annually for what purpose?
The GND Trust, Hyderabad has resolved to award nationwide scholarships from 2010 on merit cum means basis. Applications are invited by the end of July 2010 and subsequently in July every year, for awarding Sharanpal Singh Scholarship and Risaldarni Ram Kaur Scholarship to meet the expenses of a yearlong stay and coaching at Delhi to appear in May 2012. Candidates willing to appear in regional language will be considered if proper coaching is available at State Capital or Union Territory. Candidates with professional degrees or post graduates are requested to send their application on plain paper, strictly without any enclosures, with the following information by ordinary post, affixing a photograph and self addressed post card for acknowledging the receipt. The selected candidates only will be informed within a month and has to send the attested copies of the submitted information. If any information found incorrect at any stage, the scholarship will be terminated and the Trust is at liberty to take steps for recovery of the availed amount and initiate criminal proceedings.
1- Name of the candidate, address, E-mail and mobile. 2- Whether Amritdhari or not? 3- Eligibility for appearing how many attempts. 4- Profession of parents and total annual income. 5- Percentage of marks obtained and year in Matric, Inter or plus two, Graduation and Post- Graduation. 6- Whether availed any benefits under Reservation Category? This is an additional qualification.
Applications may kindly be sent to, Guru Nanak Dev Educational Trust, “Sant Bhavan”, 15-3-137, Gowliguda Chaman, Hyderabad-500012. Details can be had on mobile no.0 98 48 35 31 05 or E-mail:
We earnestly appeal to lend your valuable support to this noble cause to find and locate intelligent candidates fit to appear. Bright students of school and college level willing to appear in future are advised to contact for guidance of advance preparation for better results.
Our circumstances demand to understand the couplet of the great poet and philosopher Dr. Sir Mohd. Iqbal and adopt it, which focuses our current problems appropriately and most essential for the dignified survival of our future generation.
mSvry ieh ho rhy hYN bwZbwnoN myN, qumhyN brbwd krfwlyN qumhwry AwiSAwnoN myN[
nw smJogy qo imt jwEgy AY ihMdUsqW vwlo, qumhwrI dwsqW qk BI nw hogI dwsqwnoN myN[