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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

President Kalam visits Kolkata orphanage

Kolkata: It was a historic moment for the Calcutta Muslim Orphanage (CMO), the oldest orphanage of the country, for two reasons. It was for the first time that President of India visited the institution, and the orphanage was setting a new precedent by starting an English-medium higher secondary school exclusively for orphan girls. President APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated this school’s building during his visit to the city on 27 February.

President APJ Abdul Kalam addressing the gathering at Calcutta Muslim Orphanage

President APJ Abdul Kalam addressing the gathering at Calcutta Muslim Orphanage

Breaking protocol, President Kalam on reaching the venue first mingled with the audience and the inmates of the orphanage. He exchanged greetings with them and showered the children with words of encouragement. After that he took his place on the dias.

The function formally started with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an which was beautifully rendered by Mohammad Hasnain, an inmate of the CMO, and the translation was read out by the well-known journalist and author, MJ Akbar.

In his welcome address, Mohammad Salim, president of the CMO and minister of minority affairs in the government of West Bengal, stated that the presence of the President was a dream come true for the management and inmates of CMO in particular and the citizens of Kolkata, in general. He added that the visit has added to the prestige of the institution and will help further development of the CMO.

Calcutta Muslim Orphanage girl inmates studying

Calcutta Muslim Orphanage girl inmates studying

Governor of West Bengal, Viren J Shah in his address congratulated the CMO authorities for their noble work for the benefit of the deprived sections of the society, educating them in most modern ways.

President Abdul Kalam, after greeting the audience with a hearty 'Assalam-o-Alaikum' went on to elaborate on the greatness of this form of social service by saying that those who look after the orphans are in turn taken care of by the Almighty Allah. He quoted a number of ahadith in this context. Quoting from Bukhari Sharif, he narrated an incident in which a man came to Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, telling him about his distress and that he had lost pity for the people as a result of his personal problems. The Prophet asked him to take care of orphan children which would get him back his peace of mind. The President quoted interesting and encouraging anecdotes from his school days emphasizing on the importance of the role of teachers in the task of nation-building.

Calcutta Muslim Orphanage head office and boys home at 8, Syed Saleh Lane, Kolkata

Calcutta Muslim Orphanage head office and boys home at 8, Syed Saleh Lane, Kolkata

He also congratulated president and secretary of CMO for their noble work and exhorted them to carry on with this service to the underprivileged sections of society. 

Later during the question and answer session, one of the inmates asked the President as to what was the happiest moment of his life — the launching of India's missiles or his becoming the President of India. The President replied that the greatest happiness for him will be to see a smile on the faces of the numerous underprivileged of the country. Replying to another inmate's query that being poor how they can visit the Moghul Gardens, he promptly invited the children to have a visit of the Moghul Gardens and asked the CMO authorities to take note.

Secretary of the CMO, Salman Akhter, a noted philanthropist, in his vote of thanks said that it was a red-letter day in the history of the institution and expressed hope that the President, given his immense love for children, will not forget the institution, and the inmates will continue to get his help and encouragement in future. 

It is noteworthy that CMO was established in 1892 as a result of the efforts of Abdul Hasan Khan and his associates. Over a period of time it has grown into the largest orphanage of South-East Asia catering to all the needs of about 450 inmates, half of them girls. The female inmates are supported till their marriage, which is arranged by the orphanage itself, and the male inmates are normally supported till the age of eighteen years but those willing to go for higher studies are provided further support. The orphanage runs on an annual budget of about 7.8 million rupees, which is arranged through donations, rents from buildings owned by CMO as also support from Dept of Social Welfare, West Bengal. It is worth noting that the CMO was awarded the President's Medal in 1998 for its role in child welfare. 

For more info and help contact The Calcutta Muslim Orphanage,
8, Syed Saleh Lane, Kolkata 700073;; 
Email: /

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