Probity in public spaces of trust: Lessons from Chief Khalsa Diwan imbroglio | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Probity in public spaces of trust: Lessons from Chief Khalsa Diwan imbroglio

Temptation and greed in positions of power tend to bend many a mind. Thus, the call of conscience that constantly beckons and cajoles must supersede the treacherous rant of the urges. It is here that the strength of character undergoes the litmus test.

opinion Updated: Jan 18, 2018 10:07 IST
Gunbir Singh
Chief Khalsa Diwan vice-president Dhanraj Singh taking charge as officiating president in Amritsar.
Chief Khalsa Diwan vice-president Dhanraj Singh taking charge as officiating president in Amritsar.(HT File)

In this season of me-too crusades about “Weinstein-al” abuse, social media has consistently fanned the flames of misdemeanour reportage.

Skeletons are spilling out of closets globally. Not to be left behind are exposes from religious deras and now octogenarian libido caught on CCTV and circulated widely. Moral turpitude in pious places is nothing new, but what is intriguing is the speed with which such adulterous acts now go viral.

When leaders of political and social organisations cease to be role models for society, their place lies at the bottom of the heap. Society is unkind to misdemeanours on high tables of trust, and rightly so, even though the rot is prevalent in society as a whole. Unfortunately, it is the same milieu that makes the choices for the future and the degradation at all levels is as evident as it is painful.

There are not many Dr Manmohan Singhs amidst us, who keep clean their image — not only of themselves, but are the immaculate epitome of the adage about Caesar’s wife.

They strive not only to remain above board in their personal and public liaisons, but also to keep distant from sycophancy and nepotism. They manage to keep their family and friends away from their areas of influence, and thus concentrate on making a difference sans fear or favour. Such is the inevitable want of good institutions and leadership.

The time-old institutions such as Chief Khalsa Diwan bear the cross of people’s trust, and that must be kept above board and pristine.

Visionaries of yore

Founders of trusts and societies in the Punjab of yore, such as Bhai Vir Singh, Sardar Bahadur Tarlochan Singh, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia were visionaries. They were also selfless in their endeavours for flagging issues and ideas for the betterment of society. Institutions such as the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Khalsa College, Punjab & Sind Bank et al came into being due to the foresight of such luminaries.

There is need for introspection, freedom from influences and holistic visions for the future, especially in these trying times. Traditions must be honoured, changes to time-tested constitutions revoked, and above all hypocrisy and immorality rejected. The existing norm is thus unacceptable.

The Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) was formed as a conglomeration of the Sikh Sabhas of Punjab over a century ago. The stalwarts leading the CKD have for years given able direction to the Sikh faith, constituted programmes and executed action to ensure robust spiritual health of the community.

Its astute leadership initiated by people such as Sardar Sant Singh and Sardar Dilbir Singh in value-based public school education has been appreciated by all. The Sikh educational conferences held under CKD’s patronage in the ’60s and ’70s saw the accumulation of collected wisdom, debate and discussion. These were presided over by statesmen, presidents and prime ministers, with ample representation from overseas as well.

Today, however, these conferences have been reduced to town hall events. It is heart-wrenching, therefore, to see what internal strife by pygmy intellect, and now turpitude, has wrought upon this institution’s image and lofty principles.

Temptation, greed in positions of power

Temptation and greed in positions of power tend to bend many a mind. Thus, the call of conscience that constantly beckons and cajoles must supersede the treacherous rant of the urges. It is here that the strength of character undergoes the litmus test.

Many a politician have fallen the wayside for this failure in public life and tardy image. More painful is tarnished leadership in premier institutions of faith and academia for these are the thought leaders of society.

When they bend constitutions of societies, when membership rolls and rungs of executive start resembling family trees of people at the helm, and when general councils are sans naysayers and only halls of sycophancy, disaster is written on the wall. While persons must pay for misdeeds and meet their nemesis, our heads are lowered in shame. Even when removed the damage that scorned public men leave behind, and the seeds of mistrust that they sow, fosters evil portents for the future.

The Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) was formed as a conglomeration of the Sikh Sabhas of Punjab over a century ago.

It is a time of reckoning for their cronies as well, who either took joy in their company or joined the bandwagon of their influence, to distance themselves and come clean. While opportunistic elements wait in the wings to find voids and slots of influence, deep thought must precede action.

Mistakes of the past must be the learnings for future. Many an organisation have fallen to scepticism largely due to their inability to regain trust through crisp and clean alternative leadership. Institutions must not only reap the best of the crop and plant them at the helm, but also groom for the future. It is best to remember that institutions are larger than the individual.

Let us also not forget the wealth of social welfare assets created by the CKD. The orphanages, the scores of public schools, and the homes for the elderly apart, its stewardship for social causes and its legacy of goodness is beyond compare. It is, therefore, time for course correction and healing.

Hope must prevail and people with vision brought forth to renew our vows to society and ensure faith in its entity. The time-old institutions such as CKD bear the cross of people’s trust, and that must be kept above board and pristine.

gunbirsingh@gmail.com

(The writer is president of Dilbir Foundation and a well-known public figure in Amritsar. The views expressed are personal)