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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Khalsa Aid: In 25 states of the country and in the eye of controversy

The Khalsa Aid claims to provide relief not only to the people in distress due to natural calamity but also helps the war victims. In the eye of controversy for its work with protesting farmers, the organisation is accused of having links with the pro-Khalistani organisations.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: February 7, 2021 1:16:30 pm
Foot massager installed by the Khalsa Aid at the protest site where farmers have been protesting against the new Farm Bill at Singhu Border in New Delhi , on Friday, December 11, 2020. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

From being served notices by the National Investigation Agency to being nominated for Noble Peace Prize, the Khalsa Aid, the UK-based organisation, claims to work for people in distress. Formed in 1999, it started its Indian chapter, Khalsa Aid India, in 2014 and has already worked in 25 states in the country.

In the eye of controversy for its work with protesting farmers at Delhi border, the organisation is accused of having links with the pro-Khalistani organisations. Detractors say it markets its work more and serves less, which is against Sikhism which values secret donations to serve mankind.

The Khalsa Aid claims to provide relief not only to the people in distress due to natural calamity but also helps the war victims.

UK-based Ravinder (Ravi) Singh, who originally hails from Mudian Jattan in Hoshiarpur district, formed the organisation in 1999 after seeing the plight of the refugees of Kosovo war, which was fought between Yugoslavia and Kosovo Albanian Rebel in 1998-1999. Khalsa Aid’s basic principle is based on the religious philosophy of the Sikh Gurus: Sarbat da bhala (well-being of everyone), irrespective of caste, creed, religion, community and country.

“Though our organisation was registered in India in 2014 by the name of Khalsa Aid India (KAI), our first project was undertaken on January 26, 2001, when an earthquake ravaged Gujarat’s Latur region and thousands of people were rendered homeless. We not only saved several lives but also supplied water purifier tablets and tents to the homeless apart from helping the rescue teams,” said Gurpreet Singh, administrator of KA India, while speaking to The Indian Express.

He claimed it has served in 25 states in India and has 20,000 volunteers in the country.

Its other major projects included helping victims of tsunami (2004), victims of Punjab floods (2008), and victims of Himalyan tsunami in Uttarakhand (2013). It also came forward to extend help after Hindu-Muslim clashes in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), which displaced around 50,000 people and left over 60 people dead, and after clashes in Saharanpur city (Uttar Pradesh), devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir (2014), Nepal earthquake (2015), Maharashtra drought, and Kerala flood (2018).

A team of Khalsa Aid visited Unakoti district in Tripura to help flood-hid fictims. (Express Photo)

It provided brick houses to Sikhligar Sikhs in Madhya Pradesh and helped Kashmiri sutdents reach back their homes post-Pulwama attack. Also, it runs a charitable school in Patiala for poor students where 250 children are studying.

The organisation is active in over three dozen countries and claims to have contributed for various international projects. Its first project was in April 1999 in Kosovo where relief material in two trucks was its first humanitarian project. It extended help to victims of Yemen Civil War, war victims in Iraq, Syrian, Congolese refugees, Indonesian earthquake and tsunami victims.

Now the organisation has two major projects: ‘Focus Punjab’ and ‘Langar Aid’.

The organisation faces a good deal of criticism as well. “It is good that they are present everywhere to help people but if one looks at the actual contribution of the organisation in the majority of such projects, it is much below the way they project their work through media reports,” said one of the senior volunteers of KA.

Khalsa aid Khalsa Aid volunteers preparing langar (fresh meals) for flood hit people at a gurdwara in Kerala. (Express Photo)

“With their marketing stunt, several people donate to such organisations. Others spend much more on humanitarian activities and not involved in any marketing,” said another office-bearer of KA. He alleges its fund collection system is not transparent and they spend more on their own staff than on the humanitarian service.

However, Amarpreet Singh, managing director, KA India, claims that they keep each and every record of their donations. “As per government guidelines, any such NGO can spend 15% of their collections on their staff, and offices but our expenditure is between 4% and 6% only,” said Amarpreet, adding that they make an annual report of collections and expenditure as per the government guidelines.

“For farmers’ protest, we have spent 40% of the total fund collection. At Singhu and Tikri borders, we are running two ‘Kisan Malls’, where 70% things are being donated by our donors daily. When such donations come down, we will spend from the collected funds. We are maintaining records of each donor,” Amarpreet said.

“Currently two malls, washing machines and electronic messengers have been installed by KA at Singhu and Tikri borders. Now 800-bed tent facility has been created at Tikri border for protesting farmers. Toilets are also being made,” said the KA India MD.

As for their alleged links with pro-Khalistani organisations, an expert on Sikh issues said, “They cannot keep any such link, otherwise they will be debarred from several donations by several sections.”

Amarpreet said, “The name of our organisation is ‘Khalsa Aid’. Khalsa means purity but people are radicalising this term and targeting us without any evidence. We have only one mission to help the people in distress and they may be from anywhere in the world.”

“We have served in 25 states in India before supporting farmers but never ever were we linked with terror outfit by any media and now when we are supporting our farmers then we are being linked with terror groups which is quite disgraceful,” he said, adding that they are here to help farmers in their period of distress and have nothing to do with any terror group.

Even founder Ravi Singh on Khalsa Aidwebsite said, “We are deeply concerned to learn of the summons being issued by the NIA to individuals involved in the farmers’ protest being investigated as being ‘anti-national’ and supporting terrorism. Our Khalsa Aid India team on the ground have also been summoned and are being questioned/investigated.” He said that they have never received any challenge, legal or otherwise, to the work they carry out from any such relevant agency.

“Our team will cooperate and answer any queries raised by the NIA team. We will endeavor to keep our supporters updated on this matter,” he said.

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