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.
...Such decimation of a flourishing and diversified empire within a decade is unprecedented in India's corporate history. So, how did this happen?
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.
Loaded with massive cash, Religare and Fortis went on a rapid-fire expansion and acquisition spree. On the other hand, the Dhillon family and RSSB associates got lured by the real estate sector, which was delivering phenomenal returns between 2008 and 2011. Recipient companies raised further loans at 12-14 per cent interest to buy more real estate.
All turned out to be fatal errors.
Once the slowdown hit, Religare and Fortis were unable to service the massive debt raised during the expansion spree (see graphic). The Singh brothers' only fallback option may have been funds given to Dhillon and associates. But that was not to be. In the slowdown-ravaged economy, the real estate sector had gone into a spiral by then and prices crashed. The Dhillons were trapped and so were the brothers. A detailed mail sent to Dhillons and Singhs did not elicit any response on this.
...'Prius Platinum, Ground Floor, D3, District Centre, Saket, New Delhi-110017' could pass off as a nondescript address. Until you notice a striking similarity: Company after company registering it as their official address in the RoC records. At least 16 at last count. Many of them have even declared the same email ID in the RoC records: [email protected]; and are also being audited by the same firm.
Prius Real Estate, Prius Commercial Projects, Best Healthcare, Modland Wears, Fern Healthcare, Addon Realty, Hillgrow Infrastructure, Bestest Developers, Platinum Infrastructure. Even the Singh family's holding companies, RHC Holding and Oscar Investments, have declared it as their address.
Nearly Rs2,700 crore was routed to these Dhillon-RSSB functionaries companies between 2009 and 2012 through a layered and complex web of subsidiaries. Of that, Rs2,000 crore was invested in two firms--Prius Real Estate and Prius Commercial Projects.
RoC records say Prius Commercial is 84 per cent owned by Dhillons wife Shabnam and 16 per cent by RSSB Delhi head Yuvraj Narain Gorwaney. Prius Real Estate is 50:50 owned by Dhillons elder son Gurpreet and RSSBs Rajveer Singh. Addon Realty, which got Rs100 crore from Fortis, is also run by RSSB's Yuvraj Narain Gorwaney, his wife Sangeeta Narain and another Satsangi and Singh brothers cousin Sharanbir Singh Sandhu. SGGD Projects is run by brothers Vaibhav and Rahul Wadhwa, both employees of RSSB at Beas. Rahul Wadhwa was also a former Fortis employee. Lowe Infra and Wellness is another realty firm run by Sharanbir Singh Sandhu and Rahul Wadhwa. Singhs now own a majority of this firm. Hillgrow is run by another senior RSSB functionary & Singhs cousin, Jagatbir Singh Sandhu, as its director and signatory.
While many of these firms are alleged to be directly or indirectly controlled by the Dhillon family, the Dhillons themselves have had direct dealings with Singh family firms. During Religares public issue in 2007, 62.50 lakh shares representing 9.17 per cent equity each were allotted to Dhillons sons Gurpreet and Gurkirat.
Prius Platinum's swank six-floor building in Saket district centre is one of the biggest real estate ventures where the Dhillon/RSSB associates money was sunk. Besides the Saket property, Prius Commercial owns three properties in Noida, one in Ahmedabad and another in Mumbais Vile Parle. Dhillons attempt to sell these properties to Blackstone have not materialised so far. Prius Commercials website claims: "We own over two million square feet of commercial office space with another 1.5 million square feet in development and land capacity to develop a further 4.5 million square feet". Prius Platinum, though, is still sparsely occupied.
The reception and adminstration get edgy as soon as Dhillons and Singhs are enquired about. The names of Dhillon/RSSB associates companies are displayed in a glass plaque behind the reception but guards warn against photography. At least some of these firms have gained notoriety ever since law firm Luthra & Luthra, which was hired to investigate a case of Rs473 crore being siphoned off from Fortis Healthcare, mentioned Fern, Modland and Best as the companies to whom the money was transferred, allegedly against management advice and without proper sanctions. A claim that is denied by Singhs.
...With both the Dhillons and the Singh brothers refusing to respond to detailed questionnaires, it's hard to decipher what transpired in their business dealings. But l'affaire Dhillon-Singh leaves several unanswered questions: Were the brothers consumed by naivete in not just handing over a substantial chunk of their wealth to the Dhillon family and RSSB associates but also in giving Godhwani a free hand? Naivete is surely not one of their virtues. So why did the Singhs let it go this bad, this fast? Or, was the money actually owed to Dhillon family and associates? As a result, it was never returned!
Or, in 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.
Blog commenters have different styles of making their point
People are different. This is a truism that bears repeating, because we all tend to think that other people think like us. After all, the only mind we're directly acquainted with is our own.
And even that mind we know only imperfectly, since most of what goes on in our cranium happens subconsciously, with only the tip of the iceberg of our psyche rising into conscious awareness.
After fifteen years of blogging, which has entailed reading many thousands of comments on my posts, I continue to be intrigued by the various ways people use to make a point about something.
Following is an off-the-top-of-my-head of some of the commenting styles I've observed.
Now, obviously one person might use various styles from time to time, or even in the same comment. And I'm not claiming that any style is more right or wrong than the others, or should be preferred. These are just various ways of communicating.
I'm going to use subjects addressed by this blog as examples of the commenting styles, because, duh..., I'm posting on this blog.
The Logician. This style aims at producing an iron-clad set of reasons for believing this or that. A commenter who favors The Logician tends to write lengthy comments, because it takes quite a few words to lay out the case for why such and such is true.
A drawback is that apparent in Aristotle or Plato: logic takes us only so far in understanding the world, or other people. So just because something makes sense, doesn't mean it is true. All the logical arguments in the world for the existence of God don't total up to evidence that God exists.
The Relativist. But some people don't accept that objective truth exists. Along with "deconstructionists," they consider that truth is a cultural invention, with even science falling prey to subjective biases. So they elevate subjectivism, especially their own subjective experience. If something is true for them, why, it must be true for everybody. The downside is that this perspective applies to others also, which makes it tough to find common ground.
And if we accept that everyone's experience is equally valid, the door is left wide open to crazy ideas, conspiracy theories, and unfounded theories. Sure, it is possible that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu, the Vedas, and so on all are talking about the same spiritual reality, but this requires that the revelations of every religion somehow fit together, even though they clearly don't.
The True Believer. A person using this style doesn't attempt to convince others of what they believe. They simply repeat a dogma over and over, because it is just so damn obvious that it must be believable. With little or no room for doubt in their mind, they can't understand why others don't see the marvelous truth that's lying right out there in the open.
However, what is obvious to one person is obscure to another. And when two or more True Believers try to talk to each other, it's like ships passing in the night if they believe in different things. No connection is possible when, say, the absolute truth of the Bible is contrasted with the absolute truth of the Koran.
The Poet. This is a more appealing version of The Relativist. Someone using a style of The Poet embraces a creative vision of reality that is hard to pin down, since it relies more on soft imagery than hard concepts. They try to get their point across indirectly, subtly, creatively.
There's a lot to like about a poetic sensibility, especially when we're dealing with something that can't be pinned down in other ways. A five thousand word essay isn't going to capture how someone feels about entering a Gothic cathedral, but a hundred poetic words could come much closer. But if I want to know something objective, like why my computer isn't working, poetry isn't going to be of use.
The Scientist. Someone taking a scientific perspective believes that objective reality exists, and that it is possible to come to know this reality through careful observation, experimentation, reasoning, and such. They (correctly) consider that most human progress has been attained with the aid of modern science, so like to use it whenever possible. Skepticism is a big part of being scientifically minded.
But as the saying goes, to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Taken to extremes, a scientific world view can downplay alternative ways of looking upon reality. And it is possible that while science works for knowing many things, at the farthest edges of time and space the scientific method may face insurmountable roadblocks, which also is an argument against applying it to religious and mystical questions.
The Nihilist. A person with this style isn't prone to commenting on blogs, thankfully, so I've rarely encountered one. Basically they're The Relativist on steroids. Not only is there no objective truth, there's barely any subjective truth, because reality is so empty of anything meaningful, there's no reason to give a shit about anything.
On the positive side, though there's little to be positive about concerning pure nihilism, a small dose of existential despair can be an appealing antidote to simplistic feel-good narratives. I am both embarrassed and pleased to admit that I've ordered a copy of "My Beautiful Despair: the Philosophy of Kim Kierkegaardashian." These sample revelations in the Amazon book description helped make the sale:
– I have majorly fallen off my workout-eating plan! AND it's summer. But to despair over sin is to sink deeper into it.
– Obsessed with protecting your skin, lips, hair & face from the sun? Close the cover of the coffin tight, really tight, and be at peace.
– I like my men like I like my coffee: a momentary comfort in the midst of all my suffering.
– What is the operation by which a self relates itself to its own self, transparently? Selfie.
– What if everything in life were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears? Scared LOL!!
– Glamour, menswear, top hat…I stick my finger into existence, and it smells of nothing.
– I took my cat Mercy to the groomer, to brush out the dreadful tangled confusions of its existence.
– I’ve been going to bed a little bit earlier each night, to get a taste of death.
Posted at 11:53 PM in Comments | Permalink | Comments (11)