Former banker Harcharan Singh on Thursday assumed charge as the chief secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar handed over the letter of appointment to Harcharan Singh and also escorted him to his office in the SGPC administrative complex on the premises of the Golden Temple. Harcharan Singh, a former vice-chairman of the Punjab and Sind Bank, was recently announced as the SGPC chief secretary. His appointment is against a newly created post whose sanction was given by the executive.
Defending the creation of a new post, Makkar told the media that there was nothing illegal about it. The executive body has the power to make such appointments, he added. “There are certain people who are in the habit of criticising each and everything. You cannot stop such individuals,” he said, when his attention was drawn to the criticism over the appointment.
He pointed out that the annual budget of the SGPC had increased manifold over the last eight years and was now around Rs 1,000 crore.
Makkar said the services of an experienced administrator such as Harcharan Singh would be of immense help to the SGPC. Apart from managing historic gurdwaras, the religious body runs a number of educational institutions in Punjab and other states. For managing all this, the services of a capable person are always welcome, said Makkar.
“Moreover, I can’t be present in Amritsar all the time as I am on the move attending to matters pertaining to the committee. Under such circumstances, the chief secretary can be called upon to take a decision on important matters", he added.
Powers of chief secy
Makkar said the SGPC chief secretary will be taking care of all financial matters. Also, he will look after administrative issue, he added. “All files will move from secretary-level officials to the office of the chief secretary, who will then bring the file to me,” he added.
Makkar assured full cooperation to the chief secretary. He said the three secretaries ---Roop Singh, Manjit Singh and Avtar Singh, have a great deal of experience and they will be of immense assistance to the chief secretary.
He defended the Rs 3 lakh per month salary of the chief secretary, saying that the SGPC employees are paid salaries in accordance with the recommendations of the state pay commissions. Some of the principals of higher educational institutes run by the SGPC are drawing monthly salaries to the tune of `one lakh, he pointed out.
Harcharan Singh, who was present alongside Makkar, did not say a word during the press conference. He, however, promised to meet the media after getting to know the SGPC better.
Later, Makkar along with Harcharan Singh, held a meeting with senior officials of the gurdwara body.
SGPC had created post in 2003 too
This is for the second time that the SGPC has created the chief secretary’s post. In 2003, the post was created for the first time to accommodate veteran Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta after he retired from the post of secretary. However, before Calcutta could assume charge, the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission struck down the orders of the SGPC executive. As secretary, a post which he held for almost a decade, Calcutta took a token salary of just Re one per month from the SGPC. Indications are that the appointment of Harcharan Singh, too, may be challenged before the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission.