March 26th, 1980


Hazir Imam and Mrs. Gandhi Inaugurate Centre in New Delhi

Mowlana Hazir Imam was the guest of honor at the inauguration of the All India Women's Conference Building by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, on the 26th March 1980 in New Delhi. The ceremony was held to coincide with the All Womens' Conferences' 48th annual session. This session wad formally opened by Begum Salimah in their newly constructed Conference Hall which they had decided to name "Aga Khan Hall".

During the colourful ceremony, where the Prime Minister dedicated the building called SAROJINI HOUSE to the nation, India's education Minister, Mr. Shankaranand unveiled a statue of SAROJINI NAIDU. Mrs Naidu, a leading poetess and a well known personality in the independence struggle was one of the AIWC's earliest members. Her centenary is being celebrated this year.

In her opening speech, Mrs. Gandhi referred to Mowlana Hazir Imam's timely help in contributing Rs. 10 Iakhs towards the construction of Sarojini House but for which, "we would not have had this building". Welcoming Mowlana Hazir Imam and Begum Salimah, she referred to them as 'friends of India who have founded or encouraged many projects for education, health and other aspects of welfare".

In his reply Mowlana Hazir Imam noted that the United Nations Economic and Social Council had rated the All India Women's Conference as "one of the world's most effective institutions of its kind" and was "proud and happy that the name of my family will always be associated with it in the name of your new hall". He went on to say that he was singularly impressed in India by the immense number and variety of organizations and people who engage in voluntary welfare work, aimed at the relief of the poor, the sick and the deprived".

However for some time now, he had felt that social institutions which absorbhuge sums of public money, as "they were not profit oriented and therefore proper management systems did not appear so central to their very existence, the correct instructions for measuring performance, cost efficiency and managment competence were never created".

He felt that charitable institutions would run better if they employed appropriately qualified people and proper management systems leading to better use of all resources. This, he believed, is of considerable importance to the developing world.

Begum Salimah in opening the 48th annual session, stressed "philanthropic and voluntary work, education, health and welfare and indeed administration and management "as" domains in which women can make a most useful contribution and excel". Quoting Hazrat Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah in saying that if you have two children, educate the girl first so her children will benefit by her education, Mowlana Hazir Imam, she said, "had continued to stress the importance of women's education". Describing a woman's multifarious role, she stated "we are the wife, the mother, the comforter, the homekeeper, the nurse, the teacher".


Mowlana Hazir Imam and Begum Saheba had arrived in Bombay on the 21st March, where they were guests of the Governor of Maharastra, Governor Sadiq Ali. During their two day visit of Bombay, Mowlana Hazir Imam attended a meeting of the Housing Development Finance Corporation and Begum Saheba was the guest of honour at a function hosted by the Central Education Board where awards were given to the most outstanding students of 1979. On Sunday 22nd March 1980, Mowlana Hazir Imam gave deedar to the Jamat which had gathered from various parts of India at Bombay's Brabourne Stadium.

In new Delhi, Hazir Imam and Begum Saheba attended a lunch held in their honour by Mrs. Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, at her residence at no.1 Safdajang. The Vice-President of India Mr. Hidayatuliah gave a dinner in their honour where he praised the Ismaili contribution to India and spoke of Hazir Imam's spirtual and moral leadership as having "brought about a deep fellow feeling and mutual understanding amongst peoples".

Mowlana Hazir Imam and Begum Saheba departed from New Delhi's Palam airport on Wednesday 26th March 1980. At the airport to bid them farewell, were Ministers of Govt. of India, members of the diplomatic corps, and Ismaili Leaders of India.

Source: Ismaili Mirror

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