In honour of
THE VISIONARY SIKH EDUCATIONIST WITH A DIVINE MISSION
(To Amalgamate Modern Scientific Education with Spiritual Inspiration)
By Professor (Dr) Surjit Singh Bhatti (Retd.), Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Baba Iqbal Singh ji was born in 1926 in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. He is the Founder-President of the Kalgidhar Trust and the Kalgidhar Society at Baru Sahib, a picturesque hilly abode in Himachal Pradesh (HP), in India. He retired as Director (Agriculture) from HP Government in 1986 and has dedicated all his life for the dissemination of value-based modern education and for rendering selfless social service to all, irrespective of caste, community, and religion. The emphasis is on the education of girls, the poor and the marginalized sections of rural society, especially in Northern India. He is the Chancellor of two unique multi-faculty modern Universities and is the Guiding Light of a large number of Educational and Philanthropic Institutions. An enlightened Saint, he is today one of the Most Respected and widely travelled educationists of the world in the 21st century.
In his childhood, he was impressed by unwavering Bhakta Dhruva and Bhakta Prahalad. Later, he was influenced by dedication of Sanghamitta and Mahinda (daughter and son of King Asoka), who became monks and went to Sri Lanka to preach Buddhism. However, Steadfastness and Supreme Sacrifices of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his four sons (Sahibzadas), for the Noble Ideals and Principles of the Sikh Faith, made most indelible impact on his mind and set future course of his life.
Influence of Sant Attar Singh ji and Sant Teja Singh ji
Baba Iqbal Singh ji considers two great Saint-Educationists from Punjab as his Spiritual Guides. One who inspired Baba ji most, was Sant Attar Singh ji (1866-1927), a great advocate of (both) Spiritual and Modern Education, particularly for the girls and the poor. He opened schools and a college in rural Punjab more than a century ago, where he stressed the need for Moral Values as the basis of scientific education. As a scholar, he commanded great respect and was invited by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya to lay Foundation Stone of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in December 1914.
The other Distinguished Educationist, Sant Teja Singh ji (1877-1965), MA, LLB, AM (Harvard), the First Turbaned Sikh Graduate of Harvard, became the Mentor and Guide of Baba Iqbal Singh ji. Sant Teja Singh ji worked as Principal of Teachers Training College at BHU, Banaras and also of Khalsa College, Amritsar. He was a staunch follower of Sant Attar Singh ji Maharaj. He visited Canada, UK, USA, Germany, and some Pacific regional and other countries during 1906-13 to defend the rights of the Sikhs there and to enlighten others about the Sikh Philosophy.
Educational Initiatives of Baba Iqbal Singhji
After retirement, Baba ji came to Baru Sahib and started the First School with only five students in one room. Today, this Akal Academy is spread over a huge complex, and has blossomed into a renowned (10+2) English-medium co-educational school, affiliated to CBSE, New Delhi. Besides, this Academy has the International Baccalaureate (IB) and US Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) Programs. Low-cost 129 Akal Academies, mostly in rural Punjab (and other states in Northern India) have been set up under supervision of a team of highly qualified and experienced educationists with Baba ji’s guidance. Akal College of Engineering and Technology (ACET) and the unique multi-faculty Eternal University (for Girls) have been set up at Baru Sahib campus. There are only 15% universities exclusively for women in India today and there is need for more such institutions. Another university, the Akal University, was established in 2015 at Talwandi Sabo, near Bathinda, in Punjab. Marginalized 70,000 students are getting educated in these institutions who otherwise would have been exposed to drug abuse and neglect. In addition, more than 2000 rural girls are being given Free Teachers Training, and Teachers Jobs in Akal Academies.
Self-less Social Services by Baba Iqbal Singh ji
Baba ji has always been active in acts of social service. These include the Relief and Rehabilitation work which the volunteers from Baru Sahib undertook during the devastating Kashmir Earthquake in 2005. Their work was appreciated all over the world and was recognized by the Government of India. He encouraged students of minority communities to avail Government Scholarships for their studies. Baba ji carried out research in the food value of Canola oil as compared to other edible oils. He inspired educated youth to support the use of healthy Canola Oil in India. Baba ji guided thousands of youngsters how to turn parched lands into green farms in drought hit areas, as in Tamil Nadu. Students studying at Baru Sahib were trained to recite all the Gurbani hymns in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) in the Original 31 Ragas in which they were composed by Guru Sahibans. These recitations were telecast on TV channels in the original Ragas. Akal Academies provide free education to thousands of marginalized and poor students. Baba ji also took up the fight against ban imposed by FIBA on turban-wearing Sikh basket-ball players.
Baba ji and his team of volunteers are running several philanthropic institutions for the needy. These include Old-Age Homes for the poor old persons, Orphanages for destitute children and Centers for Rehabilitation and Training of helpless Widows. They have set up De-Addiction Centers in the care of Expert Physicians. Every year, Medical Camps are arranged where top specialists volunteer to look into the problems of the rural poor who can not afford expensive diagnostics and treatment. Besides, free medicines, devices and follow-up facilities are provided to the patients in their own hospital at Baru Sahib throughout the year.
Eternal University, Baru Sahib (HP)
As per the visions of Sant Attar Singh ji and Sant Teja Singh ji, the entire endeavor under The Kalgidhar Trust and The Kalgidhar Society has a firm commitment to value-based scientific education. This is provided in a Spiritual and Innovative environment, away from other derailing distractions. The Eternal University at Baru Sahib is a rare example of such a Center of Excellence. With International Collaboration and Industry Linkages, this university extends latest facilities for courses leading to B. Sc.(Hons.) Agriculture, B. Tech. (Food Technology), B. Tech (Electronics and Electrical Engineering), M. Tech. (Renewable Energy) and M. B. A. For this, State-of-the-Art Departments of Agriculture, Engineering, Basic Sciences, Education, Health Sciences and Economics, Commerce and Business Management) have been set up. Research is going on in all disciplines, including Bioprospecting of Medicinal plants and Functional foods.
Baba Iqbal Singh ji has written several very illuminating books. Thes include Sikh Siddhant (2001), Sikh Faith (2014), Tribute to Sant Teja Singh Ji (2015), Turban – Pride and Honour of India (2008), Sikh Faith- An Epitome of Inter-Faith’(2020). His Biography has been written by Benedict Parmanand and was released in 2017 by India’s Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Akal University, Talwandi Sabo, near Bathinda (Punjab)
This the second university established with the tireless efforts of Baba Iqbal Singh ji and his dedicated team, in 2015. He collected funds from all over the world and appointed the most competent persons to run the relevant courses and undertake research. This place has the Blessings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who had pronounced it as a Unique Seat of Learning , in the following words (at Ta[wandi Sabo in 1705.)
This is (my) Guru-Kashi, which will emerge in future as a Great Centre of Divine Learning. Here even slow-witted will also be transformed into Enlightened Writers, Poets and Great Scholars.
Akal University, Talwandi Sabo, near Bathinda (Punjab) Estd. in 2015
Some of the Honours bestowed upon Baba Iqbal Singh ji
In 2011, Baba Iqbal Singh ji was invited to attend the International Workshop on “Global Development and Institutions for Peace, Inspired by Faith” at Dhaka. This was organised by the Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, of the Georgetown University, at Washington (USA).
In 2013, he was adjudged Fifth Most Influential Sikh in the World by The World Sikh Council (UK). He was declared the “Most Outstanding Individual, Worthy of Esteem”, in New York (USA) in 2014. He was the Guest of Honour at the American Alliance of Religions for Peace, in 2014, where he was requested to sign the historic Peace Agreement document for guiding the posterity.
In 2016, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by National Institute of Cleanliness Education and Research, and The Sikh Lifetime Achievement Award by The Top Sikhs, in London (UK). Shiromani Panth Rattan Award, the highest recognition in the Sikh community, was awarded to Baba Iqbal Singh ji by Takht Sri Harmandar Sahib, situated at Patna Sahib (Bihar), in 2018.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Punjab Planning Department bestowed ‘SDG Action Award’ to The Kalgidhar Trust, Baru Sahib for achieving Sustainable Development Goals in September 2020. The award was given in the individual category for promoting integration, convergence, joint action and holistic solutions approach and in appreciation of the low-cost values-based education being provided to around 70,000 rural children in North India through 129 Schools, two Universities and a woman empowerment drive to skill-up 2500 rural girls with Teachers Training.
SDG Action Award is an innovative instrument which would encourage, promote and back the efforts of all change-makers who are working towards making the world a better place. SDGCC supported by UNDP is a platform to implement and achieve the ambitious SDG 2030 targets by integrating and facilitating all stakeholders and empower, prepare, and fully equip the state of Punjab with technical knowledge, capacity, resources, and systems.
Baba Iqbal Singh ji – An Oasis and a Lighthouse
The unique value-based latest scientific education being imparted by Baba Iqbal Singh ji and his dedicated team, and the self-less services they are rendering to the poor, particularly the girls, are an oasis in the desert of today’s commercial world. Baba ji is a lighthouse to dispel the perils of indulgence in evils like drugs, lust, violence, and greed. Baba ji is assisted by a large number of volunteers led by a devoted couple (Dr Devinder Singh, MD and Dr Neelam Kaur, MS), who left their lucrative medical practice to join Baba Iqbal Singh ji and render service to the youth from all over the world.