Meet Mr. M.F.H. Beg, the Founder Director of Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd. A person with serious concern, compassion and soft corner for poor and marginalized sections of the society, Mr. Beg was deeply pained at the step-motherly treatment being meted out to the residents of Muslim-dominated Jamia Nagar, Okhla in New Delhi. The situation was grim and discriminatory approach was evident at the simple fact that no scheduled bank run by government was ready to set up a branch or provide loans to Muslims and other weaker sections residing in the area. This utter neglect and discrimination prompted the compassionate Mr. Beg to establish the Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd. with its single branch at Batla House with an initial capital of Rs. 60 lakh and 3,000 shareholders. The bank started functioning from December 28, 1995. The achievements of Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd. has been quite laundable and significant. The bank has advanced loans to the weakest section of the society Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities, vendors running small business without shops at footpath, Rickshaw Pullers, Drivers etc. The bank presently has at least 10 branches in various places in Delhi.
The Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd. is an epitome of interfaith harmony. Mr. M.F. H. Beg recently talked extensively to Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper ‘IndianMuslimObserver.com’ and Mohammad Aleem, Managing Editor of ‘IndianMuslimObserver.com’ and highlighted various aspects which will be astounding for the residents of Jamia Nagar, Okhla. While pointing out the discriminatory approach of government-run banks, Mr. Beg particularly eulogized the role of Hindus, Sikhs and others, and of course a handful of Muslims, who all contributed significantly in the formation of this bank. Mr Beg pointed out that most depositors are Hindus and other non-Muslims, while the loans have been provided mostly to Muslims. He said that the situation though has transformed over the years with many government-run banks such as State Bank of India and Union Bank of India having opened their branches, but Muslims of Okhla are still deprived of personal or home loans.
Apart from being Founder of Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd., Mr. M.F.H. Beg is also the Founder of Dr. Zakir Hussain Memorial Co-operative Group Housing Society. He successfully led the Society till the completion of 204 flat for all bonafide members of the Society. He says that these are the best flats ever designed in Delhi by architect Raj Rewal and cheapest flats in NCR Delhi. The French magazine highlighted the colony in “Architecture Book of French”.
Mr. M.F.H. Beg is also a renowned social and educational activist. He is presently President of Maulana Azad Inter College and Kidwai Inter Girls College in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Both the colleges were founded by his elder brother. He also holds various positions as well. Apart from being Founder Director of Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd., he is also President of Maulana Azad Educational Society, Azamgarh; Member of Building Committee, Zakir Hussain College, New Delhi; and Member of Delhi State Co-operative Union. Mr. Beg has also received Co-operative Award of Eminent Cooperator in 2009. He also received Ch. Dalip Singh Memorial Award in 2012.
Mr. Beg has diligently pursued the policies of the co-operative movement initiated by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. He has played a pioneering and crucial role in espousing and promoting the cause of co-operative movements in NCR Delhi more than anyone else. Mr. Beg, in fact, even deserves greater recognition and should be given Padma Bhushan or Padma Shri award for his contributions to the co-operative movement in NCR Delhi.
Mr. M.F.H. Beg veritably seems to be an encyclopaedia on Jamia Nagar, Okhla. He offers fascinating glimpse of the area and its people. He expresses displeasure over the fact that entire Okhla area has come up unplanned without any proper layout whatsoever. The problem of encroachment is endemic here. Builders rule the roost and the residents are being forced to live in miserable conditions. He is also extremely unhappy over the way in which Jamia Millia Islamia, a Central University, has so far conducted its affairs. He says that the university has been let down by its own authorities. Despite having its own Engineering department, the university is ill-planned with no proper campus. Most of its lands have been encroached and still continues to be so.
Here are the excerpts of the extensive interview.
By Danish Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Aleem
Q: You are a Founder Director of Jamia Co-operative Bank Ltd., Delhi. How did you start it?
Ans: This bank came into existence because of a closely related incident. An idea cropped up to establish “Zakir Bagh”, an important housing colony of Muslims in South East Delhi. To give this idea a concrete shape we tried to secure a housing loan which no centralized bank was willing to offer to us. There were many other difficulties. To overcome our financial woes, we decided to start our own bank. But it was not so easy. We also contacted the Central Bank of India branch at Jamia Nagar. We were instrumental in getting that branch established in our locality. Sadly, this bank now no longer exists here. They had promised us that they would provide loan to us. But they did not keep their promises. We then contacted the HDFC Bank. We were the first client of HDFC Bank. They agreed to lend us loan. The founder of HDFC, Mr. H.D Parekh, and his nephew, Deepak Parekh came to help us willingly. They still love to help us. They helped us immensely. If they had not helped us, the Zakir Bagh would not have come into existence at all. We started work on our bank in 1994 and on 18th December 1995 it was finally started. To get license, we struggled hard and faced a lot of hurdles.
Q: What were the conditions imposed by Reserve Bank of India for establishing the bank?
Ans: They asked us to provide the list of at least 3,000 shareholders and total deposit money of amount Rs. 60 lakh. After completing this formality, we finally submitted the paper for granting the license.
Q: What was the response of the people when you went to them and asked for buying the shares of the bank?
Ans: It was very bad. But many generous people came ahead also like Dr. S.M. Farooq of Himalaya Drugs, Mr. Sirajuddin Qureishi, presently President of India Islamic Culural Center (IICC), Alam sahib, he was Chartered Accountant and was appointed the first Vice President of the bank. All of these people promised to help us immensely. The contribution of Alam sahib was quite important.
Q: Usually, it is seen that when a new idea is floated among Muslims, they feel apprehensive about its successes. Did you also face the same kind of problem?
Ans: Yes, we faced many problems. But the silver lining for them was that we had succeeded in building the Zakir Bagh, earlier, so they thought that we would succeed in this venture also. This was the reason that people came willingly to us to invest in this project. People like Haji Altaf helped us greatly. Wherever we went, we succeeded in getting the membership. However, it was not a smooth journey in any way. They said, “We have put all our faith in you and now it is up to you to make it a success.”
We are also quite clear that if we take up a task in our hand, we should complete it with all perfection. The Reserve Bank of India also helped us in a great way.
Q: It is often said that Muslim organizations or institutions face a lot of hurdle at the hand of the government. Was it so with you also?
Ans: The government had its own clear cut instructions that until you have 3,000 shareholders and Rs. 60 lakh deposit money, we will not provide you the license. There were many other conditions to fulfill such as getting it registered with the Registrar of India. We completed all the formalities. And then, finally we submitted our proposal for approval.
There are many people at every level in almost all organizations who try to put obstacles before you, especially at the clerical level. But, if you keep pursuing, you succeed in the end.
If people do work positively, the government also comes willingly to help. It is our overall observation.
This bank is not only of Muslims or for Muslims. All religious communities like Hindu, Sikh and Christian are members and account holders of the bank.
Q: What is the basic difference between a government bank and a co-operative bank?
Ans: All banks are bound by the policies of Reserve Bank of India. Without getting proper license, no one can operate a bank. Some banks are based on co-operative basis. Some banks are fully owned by the government and some banks are private such as HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank.
Q: People always think about the success and failure of such ventures. Many such initiatives by Muslims have failed and the coummunity felt itself cheated. The infamous Al-Falah financial investment scam is a case in point. What is your opinion about it?
Ans: It is fact that many co-operative banks have failed and faced corruption charges and embezzled money. But, if such things happen in big banks, they get it concealed. And they target the bank like co-operatives easily.
If you take help of efficient and experienced people, every organization or institution will succeed. It depends on the work force you put on the ground. And we are very careful about it. We hire reputed retired bank officials to look after all our major works.
Q: Do you also provide loan for micro financing schemes? Do you also help poor people in coming out with their own business ventures?
Ans: We give loan especially to lower income group people to start their own business in a great way such as vendors, business operators on foot paths, drivers etc. We have been doing this for the last 15 years or so. We have already distributed around Rs. 80 crore to them. They take it as a business loan, personal loan and loan for maintenance of their houses. They don’t get loan from elsewhere because they don’t live in any authorized locality. They buy houses and flats with our help.
Q: Do you also face defaulters? What then you do with it?
Ans: You can’t get 100 percent recoveries from every business. Sometimes, we face loses. But, we have created our own separate fund to meet such eventualities, like BDDR, means, doubtful and bad reserve. We put some money in that account taking from the profit of the bank. Now, we have our own CRR and it is 24 percent.
Q: Who were the other founder members of your bank?
Ans: There were many important figures like Raja Taliya, who was the member of Planning Commission of India, Dr. I. Z Bhatti, he was the Director General of National Council of Applied Reserch, Ahmad Sayeed, Ram Nath and V.P Malhotra etc.
Q: We see that you got a lot of help from people of other communities such as Hindus, Sikhs and Christians?
Ans: Yes, we are fortunate that they helped us and still helping. Our doors are open for every people. We don’t discriminate on any level. This is the rule of coperative bank to help all types of people. Interestingly, the deposit money that we currently have are mostly from Hindus. In fact, Muslims should have been the largest depositors as they are the biggest beneficiaries. This is rather unfortunate. We provide much of our loans to Muslims because they are poor and needy. Our bank is a great example of communal harmony. At Zakir Bagh, we gave memberships to the people of other religious community also. We never discriminated with anyone on the basis of caste, creed and religion.
Q: What was your relation with Jamia Millia Islamia?
Ans: I did Diploma in Rural Services from here. Before that, I had obtained my intermediate degree from Shibli College at Azamgarh, my native place.
Jamia was at that time like a big Madrasa. After opening the rural institute, it came to be recognized by people in a big way. After that, many new departments came like Engineering. There was Prof. Madan Lal Sharma. He was quite a dynamic person. He would invite a known scholar from European countries for giving lectures to the students with the help of Ford Foundation of India every other week. It helped in broadening the mental horizon of the students.
Now, Jamia Millia Islamia is a central university and growing day-by-day. The only sad thing is that though Jamia had a full fledged engineering department, but they could not pass a layout program of their own university. If it was so, this university would now have got an aesthetic image of good building and infrastructure.
Q: What do you think of the minority character of Jamia Millia Islamia, especially, in the light of the controversy which had risen after granting the minority status by the Government of India.
Ans: I do think it is a good move and Muslims will be benefited. I always keep myself ahead in every such movement.
Q: Which political party are you attached with?
Ans: We are always attached with the Congress Party. When India became independent and the first assembly election was conducted in our constituency, Swami Nitya Nand became our first MLA. He was a very secular man. His style of working was quite good. Once, he came to our village. He saw that people had thrown the tooth sticks after using it in mosque here and there. He asked for a broom and started cleaning it. He did not like to see hat the place of worship should look so unclean. He did not seek vote from anyone. But after doing that work, he stole the hearts of everyone. All spoke in chorus that we would cast our vote in favour of Swami Ji.
Q: You have seen the glorious days of the Congress Party and now you are seeing the days of Narender Modi. How do you see and judge it?
Ans: I was the person who had requested Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India to visit Jamia Millia Islamia. He came and addressed our convocation. He was the chief guest. He had given degrees to us with his own hand. We are still close to the Gandhi family.
After him, we became quite close to Indira Gandhi. She wanted to give ticket of parliamentary election to my elder brother.When I along with my brother were sitting in her drawing room to discuss the issue, she asked my brother have you the required money to fight the election. But, we were not much financially well off in those days and could not bring required money to fight the election. And, we because of lack of money could not fight the election. However, we always remained loyal to the Gandhi family.
Q: What difference do you see in the Congress Party of yesteryear and now?
Ans: We see a generational change as we see in our families. The old people fought against the British colonial rule and laid down their lives for India’s independence, and they were very dedicated and nationalist people. But now, their sons and daughters have no such dedication and vision for the nation.
Q: What is your opinion about the current Prime Minister of India Narender Modi?
Ans: He is running the country quite well. But, what is in store for future, nobody knows.
[Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com”. Mohammad Aleem is Managing Editor of “IndianMuslimObserver.com”]