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The Rediff Special/Tarlochan Singh
'Dr Singh continues to be a student'
May 20, 2004
I am one of the few people who have been to Dr Manmohan Singh's village, Gah, in West Punjab, Pakistan. I went there in 1945 to attend a wedding.
His village had very few Sikh families.
The total Sikh population in the region was five percent. Sikhs had been living there for over a hundred years.
I am proud that two of India's prime ministers -- Inder Kumar Gujral and Dr Manmohan Singh -- belong to my district, Jhelum, now in Pakistan.
I share a very cordial relationship with Dr Singh.
My first opportunity to get to know him as a person came in 1973 when he was advisor, economic affairs, to the Government of India.
I got to know him more closely when he would visit Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet then President Giani Zail Singh and, later, when he was deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India.
What impresses me most about him is his humbleness and simplicity.
He does not use his office to help his family.
He was the finance minister for five years. Go and check with the finance ministry and see if they even know the names of his brothers and sisters.
I don't think there is even a single instance where he has taken undue advantage of his position or influence to help his family or his friends.
At the same time, he shares a very close relationship with his family. He attends almost all social functions involving his family, relatives and people known to him.
He is religious, but he is not a fundamentalist. He wants to help his country.
Dr Singh is 71 years old, but continues to remain a student. Whenever I go to meet him, I find him with some magazine or newspaper or a book.
What has pleased me most is the fact that Dr Singh has been elected prime minister purely on merit. His religion had nothing to do with it.
India has become the first country in the world where a person from a minority community, which comprises just two percent of India's total population, has been elected prime minister.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi has taken a truly path-breaking decision.
Tarlochan Singh, chairman of the National Commission of Minorities, spoke to Onkar Singh.