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Gurbani telecast row: Here's why PTC MD announced a reward of Rs 1 crore

AAP-led Punjab government is set to change the Sikh Gurdwara Act,1925, to make broadcast of Gurbani from the Golden Temple free for all; opposition parties have fiercely opposed the move

Amritsar: Sikh devotees pay respects on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star at Akal Takhat Sahib of the Golden temple in Amritsar, Monday, June 6, 2022. Operation Blue Star was carried out by the Indian Army in June 1984 to fl

Golden Temple

BS Web Team New Delhi
PTC News MD Rabindra Narayan has announced a prize of Rs 1 crore if anybody can claim that they are paying any charges to listen to Gurbani. 

The move comes after Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday announced that the telecast of Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar will be made free and accessible for all.

To this Narayan said that the telecast of Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib is free of cost to all viewers.

Mann, who has said that Gurbani is everyone's right and should be free of cost, made the announcement on Twitter. 

His tweet read: "With the blessings of God, we are going to make a historic decision tomorrow, as per the demand of all devotes, we are adding a new clause in the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 that the transmission of Gurbani from Harminder Sahib will be free for all... no tender required... tomorrow in the cabinet... on June 20, a vote will be taken in the state assembly."

The AAP-led Punjab government is set to introduce a new clause in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, to make the broadcast of Gurbani from the Golden Temple 'free for all'. The new clause will be passed by the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday.

The Act governs the functioning of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) that manages at least 100 gurdwaras in the state, including the Harmandar Sahib, and also allots the rights for telecast of Gurbani.

With the introduction of the new clause, there will be no requirement to get any tender from SGPC.

Who has the telecast rights?

The rights to broadcast Gurbani from the Golden Temple have been granted by the SGPC to G-Next Media Limited, which runs the PTC network, owned by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Currently, the PTC Network has the sole right to broadcast Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib worldwide. Initially, the agreement was signed between the SGPC and ETC Network Ltd, which ran the ETC Punjabi Channel in 2000. The channel telecast the Gurbani live for seven years and it became the most-viewed Punjabi channel in this period. In 2007, ETC transferred the live telecast operations to the G Next Media, under “political influence”, according to a probe report, as mentioned in a report in the Hindustan Times (HT).

“The SGPC did not check that the G-Next did not have the government’s permission to uplink and downlink Gurbani telecast and also accepted the illegal transfer of rights after amending clause 10 of the ETC agreement to facilitate the telecast. The SGPC did not invite tenders while allowing the PTC to start telecast,” the probe report read.

Badal has faced allegations in the past of monopolising the Gurbani telecast, a charge he has refuted on several occasions.

Addressing a press conference last month, Badal said that Gurbani was being telecast on a no-profit basis without any advertisements. He clarified that the PTC Network doesn’t charge for the telecast but pays Rs 5 crore annually to the SGPC for schools and colleges run by the gurdwara body.

However, the contract for the Gurbani telecast is ending next month and the SGPC is in the process of renewing it. Despite Mann announcing the move to make Gurbani free of cost, SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami announced to call tenders to allot telecast rights.

Last month, Mann had said that the state government is ready to bear all the expenditure to install broadcasting equipment at the  Golden Temple so that Gurbani can be telecast free of cost on all channels.

He said that it is good to disseminate Gurbani across the globe, with an aim to spread the message of ‘sarbat da bhala’ (welfare of all). He stated that these rights should be given free of cost to all the channels.

Reacting to this, the SGPC had said that by making such an offer, Mann was “jumping into the apex gurdwara body’s jurisdiction”.

Dhami said, "The CM is creating unnecessary controversy by making such offers."

Parties oppose the move

The SAD slammed the move by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, calling it “unconstitutional” and an interference in Sikh religious activities.

SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema tweeted, “Hon'ble Chief Minister, this act of yours is unconstitutional and a direct interference in the religious activities of the Sikh community. The Sikh Gurdwara Act is under Parliament. The Sikh community has elected the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee through voting to take decisions regarding Guru Ghar under this Act of Parliament. Has the above committee passed any such resolution in this regard? Without that, even the Parliament cannot amend this Act.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have also opposed Mann's move, contending that the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 is a law made by the Parliament, which the state government cannot change.

SGPC chief Dhami said, "You are talking about adding a new section to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act by amending it. But it can only be done by the Centre and that too on the recommendation of the SGPC, a body elected by the Sikhs."

However, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu lauded the move.

He tweeted: “Sarb Sanjhi Gurbaani... means for one and all with no discrimination... this was a cherished desire of millions of Sikhs across the globe, including me... commendable effort @BhagwantMann... Kudos."

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First Published: Jun 19 2023 | 1:43 PM IST

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