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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

‘Weak on religio-politics’, SGPC chief secretary resigns as Badungar prevails

Badungar, who chaired the meeting at which he resigned, said, “He has lots of other things to do, so he wanted to move out, and we allowed that.”

punjab Updated: Jul 29, 2017 09:52 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber and Surjit Singh
Gurpreet Singh Nibber and Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar/Chandigarh
Harcharan Singh.
Harcharan Singh. (HT Photo)

Former banker Harcharan Singh, 72, resigned as chief secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Friday amid talk that he had been asked to go since he could not handle religious issues well. He announced his resignation in the SGPC executive meeting at Fatehgarh Sahib and it was accepted immediately.

The resignation comes a month short of his completing two years of his three-year term. He took over on August 27, 2015, and will not work after July 31. “I decided to quit for some family reasons,” Harcharan told HT over the phone. A former vice-chairman of Punjab and Sind Bank, he started at Rs 3 lakh as monthly salary, which was reduced to Rs 1 lakh in March this year after Kirpal Singh Badungar took over as SGPC president.

Badungar, who chaired the meeting at which he resigned, said, “He has lots of other things to do, so he wanted to move out, and we allowed that.”

But it was not that simple, it is learnt.

What’s the matter?
  • Ex-banker Harcharan Singh was appointed in 2015 at Rs 3 lakh monthly salary, which caused a flutter.
  • He was recruited to streamline financial matters when Avtar Singh Makkar was the SGPC president, but he allegedly started dabbling in religio-political issues.
  • His salary was cut to Rs 1 lakh a month in March this year; granthis and raagis get Rs 50,000 to 80,000 in comparison; even Akal Takht jathedar gets about Rs 1 lakh.

SGPC insiders told HT that Harcharan was “unable to handle religio-political issues with the finesse that he was expected to”, and he ran out of favour with the Badals of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that controls the SGPC. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had brought him in after the chief secretary’s post was created only for the second time in SGPC’s history, primarily to handle the finances.

Sources also said that Badungar and SGPC general secretary Amarjeet Singh Chawla prevailed upon the Akali top brass to seek his resignation; after his objections to some expenses that the SGPC could have avoided in his view.

The post was created first in 2003 for veteran Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta, but his appointment was struck down by the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission even before he could take charge.

It was created this time to “streamline” affairs of the SGPC when Avtar Singh Makkar was the president, though Harcharan’s salary had elicited opposition from within the SGPC and religious circles. On a number of occasions, he had a tiff with Makkar that reached the SAD top brass.

An SGPC office-bearer said on Friday, “The Akali Dal expected him to do more, but he was weak on issues of maryada (religious code of conduct), and we had to intervene to save him.”

Also, the clerical and religious staff in the SGPC were opposed to his bureaucratic systems derived from professional organisation where he had worked, said the office-bearer.

First Published: Jul 28, 2017 18:43 IST