Punjab’s Bhagwant Mann-led government today said the broadcast of Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar should be free for all, for which it plans on adding a new section in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, after presenting a proposal in the state assembly.
Harmandir Sahib has been, since 1998, broadcasting Gurbani in the morning and evening.
Broadcast rights of Gurbani have been with the PTC network, owned by the politically powerful Badal family, since 2007. The network pays the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee — which administers the Harmandir Sahib — Rs 2 crore annually for this.
Politically, it is likely to dilute the Panthic aura of the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal, which is dominated by the Badals.
PTC Network says it covers all the gatherings and programs of SGPC across the country and shows them all over the world through its channel. It also airs a separate program on SGPC’s events every week.
PTC Network claims that in total it spends Rs 10 to 12 crore on coverage and telecasts.
SGPC and the PTC Network’s contract for telecast of Gurbani expires in July 2023.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party-led Punjab government has said broadcast rights shouldn’t be given based on a tender process, and any channel that wants to broadcast Gurbani should be free to do so.
SGPC, however, is alleging that the government is interfering in religious matters.
The Opposition has argued that the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 is a central government Act which can’t be ammended by the state.
The Congress, main Opposition party in Punjab, seems divided on the issue. While party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu is praising the move by the state government, the party’s influential leader and MLA from Punjab, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, is questioning Bhagwant Mann.
Chief Minister Mann, who contends that Gurbani is everyone’s right and it should be free of cost, made the announcement in a tweet.
“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,” his tweet read.