An interview with Haji H.Mohammed Afzal, Honorary Secretary, Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society.
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>A society named Madras Haj Service
Society was established in 1965 in Mumbai.
Mumbai was then the main port of embarkation for
pilgrims bound for Haj. Pilgrims from all over India would
travel to Mumbai to board a ship for their pilgrimage
to Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims from Tamil Nadu would
also travel to Mumbai - stay there for 4 to 5 days,
complete the formalities and proceed on Haj.
The Society was founded by natives of Tamil Nadu - living in Mumbai - to assist pilgrims travelling from Tamil Nadu. A building for accommodating pilgrims was built in Mumbai in 1972 - with 14 rooms and 2 halls.
With the commencement of air services for Haj in 1972, number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu (travelling by both air and sea) increased to over 1200. This necessitated construction of another building adjacent to the existing one. It was opened in 1982 and now holds 45 rooms and 2 halls.
With the completion of Tamil Nadu Baithul Hujjaj in Chennai in 1996 [and Chennai becoming another city to embark on Haj], Haj activities of the Society became more concentrated in Chennai. In 1997, the name was also changed to Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society. Mumbai remains the registered office and Chennai - as the Main Office. People who travel on Haj from Northern states still use the facility in Mumbai on nominal payment.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the objectives of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>The main objective of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society is to render all possible assistance to Tamil Nadu Haj Pilgrims - by providing free-accommodation, information etc. There are other objectives like providing educational assistance etc.
Kayalpatnam.com>When was the Haj House constructed at DeMellows Road in Chennai? How much did it cost? How was it funded?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Air services for Haj from
Chennai was started in 1987. On invitation from
Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee, in 1987, we came
to Chennai to render our services. We rented the
Yadgar Lodge in Bharatiar Salai (opposite to
Amir Mahal) and accommodated the pilgrims bound for
Haj. Since then, we have had a fruitful relationship with the
State Haj Committee in helping the pilgrims bound for
The following year - in 1988, the owners of Impala Hotel (in Egmore) offered 60 rooms free-of-charge for the pilgrims to stay. This facility was used for next 8 years during the Haj season.
In the meanwhile, the necessity for a building of the kind in Mumbai to be constructed in Chennai was keenly felt by many. In 1992, a vacant land measuring nearly 10 grounds was purchased for Rs.90 lakhs by Madras Haj Service Society. With generous contributions from Muslims in Mumbai and all over Tamil Nadu, the present Baithul Hujjaj came into being in 1996 at a cost of Rs.3 crores.
Kayalpatnam.com>Recently - an annex building of the Haj House was opened. How much did it cost to construct?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Number of pilgrims leaving via Chennai
has kept increasing over the years. In order to accommodate
them, it was decided an annex building needed to be
constructed adjacent to the existing building. This
building was opened early this month at the site earlier
earmarked for parking facility. Today - the Haj House
contains over 110 rooms and 5 halls - including facility for
daily prayers. This building had been constructed at a cost of
nearly Rs.3 crores (4 crores - including the cost of the
Kayalpatnam.com>What is the relationship between Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee and Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee is a government body - formed by Tamil Nadu state government - whereas Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society was formed by private individuals primarily to render services to pilgrims travelling to perform Haj.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the services provided by Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society during the Haj pilgrimage?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>The governmental body Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee does the announcement for Haj, accepts application, selects pilgrims through draw of lots, provide special passport and foreign exchange, make flight arrangements etc. It also receives an amount of Rs.300 per pilgrim from Central Haj Committee, about Rs.20 lakhs annually from Tamil Nadu State Government and a small donation from each pilgrim.
In the case of us - Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society, all our finances are sourced from the community itself - mainly through the income generated from the Society's properties.
We receive pilgrims at the railway stations, take them to Haj House free-of-charge, provide accommodation - again free-of-charge at the Haj House. There is a luggage room where the pilgrims can store their things on arrival. Haj Committee opens a counter at the Haj House to provide the necessary documents (Special passport etc). The airline incharge of transport also opens a counter at the Haj House to accept the luggage (Check-in) and providing the boarding passes.
This year - the facility to give polio drops to travelling pilgrims is also being operated at the Haj House. The pilgrims - once they land in Chennai and move to the Haj House - would have very few reason to move out of the place till their departure. Food courts are opened nearby and shops with necessary articles are also opened specially during this period. Railway bookings can be done at the Haj House itself. BSNL (Chennai Telephones) also opens STD/ISD booths for public use during this time.
The pilgrims are transported free-of-charge through Parveen Travels' buses from the Haj House to the airport. Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee pays Rs.1000 per trip to Parveen Travels for this purpose.
The services of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society are free-of-charge. In this short period alone, about Rs.12 lakhs is spent by the Society from its own resources.
Kayalpatnam.com>Does Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society provide free accommodation to only those proceeding on Haj through Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Free accommodation is provided only to those travelling through Haj Committee. However, many private operators also make use of the facilities at the Haj House on nominal charges during this period.
Kayalpatnam.com>How do you manage to get so many volunteers during the Haj period?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>There are many who show avid interest in volunteering to offer their services to the Haj-bound pilgrims. In fact, we use over 150 volunteers during this period. Many of them are professionals and businessmen from Chennai. Some also travel all the way from Madurai, Salem, Tirupathur etc for the volunteer work. They provide their time and labour in the service of the pilgrims. They stay at the Haj House throughout this period. Each of them work as part of a team - handling specific tasks (reception, airport facilitation etc).
Kayalpatnam.com>Is it correct that Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society sends its own volunteers - in addition to the volunteers sent by the Haj Committee - to assist the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia during the Haj?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Yes, we send about 4 of our volunteers on Haj to assist the pilgrims, in Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to 9 sent by Tamil Nadu State Haj Committee.
Kayalpatnam.com>Does Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society provide free accommodation when the Hajis come back after the pilgrimage?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Yes we do. However - most of the pilgrims prefer going straight to their homes from the airport on arrival. About 50 pilgrims in every flight however do stay at the Haj House for a day before leaving for their home on return. They are transported free-of-charge from the airport to the Haj House.
Kayalpatnam.com>How many pilgrims leave for Haj through Chennai - using the services of the Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society? How many of them use the facility at the Haj House for their stay?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>About 4000 pilgrims use the services of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society. However, not all of them stay at the Haj House. Most of the pilgrims from areas outside Chennai - especially southern districts - stay here. About 1000 pilgrims are from Chennai, another 800 from nearby North Arcot district. They usually prefer staying in their places. Many from Pondicherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands - who board their flights from Chennai - stay here before boarding their flight.
Kayalpatnam.com>How many pilgrims from Kayalpatnam use the services of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society every year?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Roughly about 150 pilgrims.
Kayalpatnam.com>How good has been the contribution of natives of Kayalpatnam to the services of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Like communities all over, natives of Kayalpatnam have also contributed immensely to the growth of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society. Many philanthropists had contributed considerable sum in the construction of the first building as well as in the construction of the annex building - in addition to significant contribution to the facility in Mumbai.
Kayalpatnam.com>Once the Haj season is over, how is the Haj House put to use?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>The rooms are rented out during the non-haj season. Normal rooms are rented at Rs.200 per day and the Air-conditioned rooms are rented out at Rs.400 per day. For marriages also, we rent out the hall. This is the primary source of income for the Society - in addition to the income from the property in Mumbai.
Kayalpatnam.com>How do you manage to provide free accommodation to so many pilgrims?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Free service has been the original motive behind the formation of this society. This has become financially possible solely through the incomes generated by the society's properties.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the other services provided by the Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>We run a Madrasa in Mumbai. We provide educational counselling to students around March-April every year. Very deserving students are also given financial aid to pursue their studies.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the future plans of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>Nothing specifically. Once the construction work on annex building is completed fully in about 2 months, we would like to concentrate on improving our existing activities for sometime.
Kayalpatnam.com>Is there any way in which general public can contribute material assistance etc to Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society? How does one contact it?
Haji H.Mohammed Afzal>The registered office of Tamil Nadu Haj Service Society is at -
39/45 Masjid Street, Bhendi Bazar, Mumbai - 400 003.
Telephone Numbers are 91-22- 2346 8501, 2346 0721, 2346 6058.
The main office is in Chennai at -
2 DeMellows Road, Salt Couters, Chennai - 600 112.
The telephone numbers are 91-44-2669 1669, 2669 1779, 2669 1889, the fax number is 91-44-2669 1505 and the email address - [email protected].
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