Punjabi by nature: Chanda for venture capital. Howzat?

  • Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 06, 2016 09:11 IST
Illustration by Daljeet Kaur Sandhu (HT Photo)

Punjabi by Nature’s resolve to bring change is indeed igniting the imaginations of its readers. That it is lighting the fire is evident from the great suggestions that flow into my inbox.

Now that I am through with self-praise, let me share this hit of an idea sent by a reader. Nisha Doshi from Kolkata, in her message, suggests why couldn’t our cash heavy and gold-rich religious organisations that run temples, gurdwaras, churches and mosques dole out money for soft loans to the youth for start-ups? She asked why couldn’t they think out of the box and gather funds, under the supervision of successful business persons and professionals, to provide such loans? These professionals can further monitor and guide young entrepreneurs towards success.

To tell you frankly, I had rejected the idea the moment it popped up in my inbox simply because I dither from stuff that has anything to do with religion. I also judge those harshly who talk about bringing religion into economic, political or cultural spheres of life.

Moreover, taking away the ‘rozi-roti’ of the clergy who feed their bellies through donations by pilgrims is ungodly. Isn’t it? I mean you can’t starve the preachers just because you have an idea. You could be accused of conspiring to dilute a particular religion.

However, something about the idea stayed with me. And while I was still pondering over it, a part of me got convinced that what better way to get religious organisations to unload their hoarded cash, gold and silver. It is much better utilised if a youngster gets financed for a business opportunity than it being spent on a slippery marble flooring.

Imagine if the SGPC were to utilise its vast resources and have a venture capital arm to invest in Punjab’s youth who have creative and potential business ideas. No religious apps please! But it could bring a whole new progressive dimension to these organisations which are falling from grace in the eyes of the people.

A lot of religious organisations would duck this idea under the pretext that they are already running schools, colleges and professional institutes. It’s a rather lame excuse. Isn’t this an idea worth exploring? It is not that religious organisations are not already working as venture capitalists and this idea is alien to them? What else do you make out of them funding politics? Akali Dal and BJP is a pure example of this and maybe the leaders of these parties can consider taking part in economic growth of this kind.

The other challenge will be choosing entrepreneurs to fund through such an effort - the best idea or the best idea floated by a youngster in a certain community? If I’m given charge, I’ll go with the former since progress benefits everyone. Nisha, in her suggestion, also wrote that she belonged to the Jain community which is against bursting crackers. Jain temples, according to her, award youngsters who propagate this pro-environment idea. I think it’s a good move, especially when religious organisations directly award individuals. It is like a subsidy coming straight into your bank account from heaven. One hopes that religious leaders take note of this idea and implement it. And readers, please keep sending in great ideas.

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