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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Contemporary 'Sir Syed' turns 75

Leading a dream team, Jamkhanawala heads 83 institutions and 23 trusts teaching close to a hundred thousand students. With his zeal, dedication and hard work, Jamkhanawala has set the trend for 'Education that Pays' which has become a model for Maharashtra.

It is generally believed that one of the most difficult tasks is to manage human resources effectively and without controversy. It takes grit and determination to be a "people's man" and Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala has proved it to the core! 

Since 1983, when he was first elected as the president of Mumbai’s Anjuman-i-Islam, the popular educational institution in Mumbai, he has effectively managed 83 educational institutions and 23 trusts. There are over 95,000 students on the rolls of Anjuman institutions and out of this, nearly 25,000 are girls. With his zeal and hard work, Jamkhanawala has set the trend for 'Education that Pays' which has become a sort of a model to be emulated in Maharashtra. 

Born in 1930 at Belgaum, Dr Jamkhanawala commenced his practice as a general practitioner at Nagpada in 1958. Within a short span of time, he became one of the leading medical practitioners of south Mumbai. His colleagues fondly remember those days when in his dispensary, there were two separate queues of patients. One of the queues was for those patients who could not afford to pay. 
"Dr Jamkhanawala used to always take extra care for the patients who could not afford to pay. Even medicines were dispensed free of cost to them," says Dr JA Rehmany who had worked with him. The majority of these were Muslims of Mumbai who mainly consisted of petty labourers and lower middle class.

His dispensary was also a meeting place where people of different hues could discuss religious, literary, academic and cultural issue. "People of different classes and of different walks of life would visit the place. There were maulavies, politicians, writers, imams, muezzins and social workers among his patients. They would often arrange informal meetings that would continue till midnight" said Dr Rehmany.

Dr Jamkhanawala sacrificed his lucrative practice and began to concentrate on uplifting Muslims of the region. He concentrated on education and started work at the grassroots level. Soon he became popular and was invited to contest the elections for the Maharashtra legislative assembly from Nagpada in 1977. He was elected with a thumping majority and was soon inducted in the Maharashtra cabinet, as a minister of state for finance, Auqaf and urban development. "Plight of the community has shaken me. Their backwardness, unemployment and illiteracy compelled me to leave my practice and concentrate on redressing their grievances by presenting their cause before the authorities," he says. Soon in 1983 he was elected as the president of Anjuman-i-Islam, the prestigious minority educational and social organization of Muslims of western India which was founded in 1874 by Justice Badruddin Tyabji and his colleagues. He continues in that post ever since.

Dr Jamkhanawala was again inducted in the Maharashtra cabinet in 1986 as minister of Urban Development, Water Resources, Town Planning and City Development and was in-charge of Auqaf. 

Dr Jamkhanawala strongly believes that unless you have power in your hand, you cannot create any kind of change in society. In 1986 he introduced sweeping changes in the administration of Auqaf. He dissolved the Marathwada Waqf Board and filed cases of mismanagement and misappropriation of income against the trustees of the Board. Later Dr. Jamkhanawala introduced schemes that increased the income of the Marathwada Waqf Board.

"Sometimes one has to take decisions which change the course of life. I had two options. Full time politics and responsibility of Anjuman-i-Islam. Since Anjuman was growing, it required my total attention, hence I decided in favour of Anjuman," he says. Today's politics does not suit Dr Jamkhanawala's temperament. "In current politics, talent is not taken into consideration. Sycophancy and nepotism have got the major say. My conscience does not allow me to become part of such a system", he admits. 

Anjuman-i-Islam was declared as the best administrated educational institution by the government of Maharashtra. Quiz him about the secret of his success and pat comes the reply: "Delegation of power is the most effective tool in my arsenal. I am a firm believer in sharing power with my colleagues. Because without team support, success can never be achieved. I am a benevolent dictator. When it comes to the interests of the community and of Anjuman, I do not hesitate to use the iron hand. I believe there is no substitute for personal attention and hard work. Motivation is my mantra to achieve growth."

One aspect of Dr Jamkhanawala's style of functioning, which makes him popular, is his day-to-day interaction with the masses. Parents, students, officials and the man on the street line up to meet him with their woes and he lends them a patient ear. Each day from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm, he is available at his office at the Anjuman campus. People arrive here to speak to him about their problems.

His emphasis is on vocational training and professional courses. Today Anjuman offers medical, engineering, hotel management, media and many professional and vocational courses. "We at Anjuman emphasise on teaching human values with due importance to spiritual practices as well,” said Dr Jamkhanawala. 

Under his leadership, Anjuman-i-Islam has taken shape as a professional educational institution backed by a sincere cause for the upliftment of the community. But Dr Jamkhanawala does not want to rest on his laurels; he is all set to work towards the construction of a home for the destitute women. 

What keeps him going? "I believe in destiny. You do your work sincerely, honestly and with firm commitment and leave the rest to the Almighty", he says as he gets set to work on his latest project: a home for destitute women. Truly a man who sees the world with his heart even as he turns 75.

-M Hanif Lakdawala, Mumbai


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