Following in the journalistic footsteps of a Bloomberg story about the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) guru's connections with the financial problems of Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, now Business Today India has released "The Baba, Singh Brothers, and the Squandered Rs $225,00,00,00,000."
Download The Baba Singh Brothers and the Squandered Rs 225 00 00 00 000
"Baba" is a term of respect that's often used with spiritual leaders. According to a couple of currency converters I found online, Rs (rupees) $225,00,00,00,000 equals about $3.2 billion in U.S. dollars. So we're talking some real money that was squandered.
Gurinder Singh Dhillon is on the right in the photo above, and the Singh brothers are on the left.
Below I've shared some excerpts from the lengthy Business Today story, boldfacing the mentions of Gurinder Singh Dhillon and his family. The whole story is well worth reading, of course.
Here's a few observations about how the guru of a spiritual organization ended up getting entangled in so many suspicious financial dealings.
First, it's more than a little strange that Gurinder Singh Dhillon heads up Radha Soami Satsang Beas, which has published a book called "Honest Living."
If you read the Bloomberg and Business Today stories, you'll learn that whatever we might call the financial schemes the guru is deeply involved with, it's very difficult to call them honest living.
Download Honest Living
Here's an excerpt from that RSSB book.
Second, when someone in business hasn't done anything wrong, they're usually pleased to talk about their dealings. But neither Gurinder Singh Dhillon nor any of his family members or business associates has been willing to talk with reporters. This is a pretty good sign that they're hiding something.
And obviously those refusals to comment on stories involving the Dhillons and the Singh brothers isn't causing business journalists in India to back away from their reporting. I suspect that, if anything, this makes reporters confident that there's more "dirt" to divulge, so they dig deeper.
Lastly, I've heard that many Radha Soami Satsang Beas true believers are discounting the recent stories about Gurinder Singh Dhillon's financial problems, rationalizing these as being a part of some grand spiritual plan, or the guru's inscrutable mystical ways.
Which reminds me of a cartoon I came across in the Washington Post today.
The cartoon refers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who, along with most of his Republican colleagues, is ignoring the ever-increasing evidence of scandals involving President Trump. I like the reference to "Little Red Hiding Hood."
This is exactly what true believers of any sort -- religious, political, etc. -- do when confronted with information that challenges their belief system: they do their best to look away and pretend that disturbing information doesn't exist.
But that doesn't make the scandal go away. It just makes the true believers further divorced from reality, which is never a good thing.
Here's the aforementioned excerpts from the Business Today story. Last month I wrote a post about how Shivinder Singh was rumored to be in line to succeed Gurinder Singh Dhillon as the RSSB guru.
You'll read at the end of the excerpts that there's a question about whether loans by the Singh brothers to the Dhillons pertained to whether given "Shivinder's apparent desire to emerge as the sect's next spiritual head, the brothers gave loans to further his chances of being backed by Dhillon to head the sect and its sprawling operations."
An influential 'Baba' and his family with a weakness for materialism; two young businessmen loaded with nearly Rs10,000 crore from an asset sale; and a family confidante have together cooked a cauldron that Bollywood potboilers are made of. Their machinations wrecked a flourishing empire and vapourised nearly $3.2 billion (Rs22,500 crore then) into thin air.
The answer lies hidden in a maze of a dozen companies. But before we get to that, let's understand the family dynamics between the Baba, Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the brothers and family confidante Sunil Naraindas Godhwani.
Dhillon-better known as 'Babaji' or the 'Saint of Beas' is the spiritual guru of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB). The head of RSSB works pro bono, draws no salary nor any benefits from the sect. Dhillon battled cancer and recovered from it in 2013. RSSB has over two million followers and a vast land bank across the country. It has over 5,000 centres that can accommodate between 50 and 5 lakh people during congregations. The sect is a 1918 breakaway faction of the Radha Soami sect founded at Agra in 1861 by Shiv Dayal Singh. Dhillon has headed the sect since inheriting it in 1990 from maternal uncle Charan Singh who was the spiritual guru between 1951 and 1990. Charan Singhs daughter Nimmi Singh is Malvinder & Shivinders mother and wife of Late Parvinder Singh. Thus, Dhillon is the brothers' maternal uncle.
In comes confidante Godhwani, who was recommended and backed by Dhillon to run non-banking finance company Religare Enterprises. The Singhs often referred to him as their third brother but he once said he owed his allegiance to nobody except Dhillon. He is now called the "self-proclaimed third brother". The bond was to strengthen further as Godhwani's daughter Simran was engaged to Dhillon's younger son Gurkirat. The proposed marriage, however, never went through as the two parted ways. It was fine as long as it was all within the family. But that was not to be.
Too much money spoiled the brotherhood.
There are three dimensions to the Singh potboiler-Singh brothers' relationship with Dhillon; their ties with each other and the relationship with Godhwani. In the first, being the head of the sect and a father figure to Singh brothers, Dhillon had an upper hand; in the second, equal partners Malvinder and Shivinder were led by Malvinder; in the third, Godhwani, being backed by the Dhillons, pretty much ran Religare independently.
But it all begins and ends with money. Once the proceeds of the Ranbaxy sale were received, the Singh brothers paid nearly Rs2,000 crore in taxes and previous loan repayments. Of the remaining Rs7,500 crore, Rs1,750 crore were invested in Religare to fund its growth; about Rs2,230 crore was invested in Fortis' growth.
But most importantly, Rs2,700 crore were transferred to companies owned by the Dhillon family, Gurinder Dhillons wife Shabnam Dhillon and companies associated with RSSB's senior functionaries. While Religare and Fortis are examples of reckless expansion and its consequences, the money transferred to Dhillon and associates-which (with interest) is now estimated to be between Rs4000-5,000 crore-remains unpaid to the Singhs.
It isnt clear why this money was never returned. Dhillon and the Singh brothers did not respond to detailed questions on whether this money was owed to Dhillon and associates for any previous transactions or was only loaned to them.