Our Haj Committee can take lessons from Tabung Haji a Malaysian institution which has devised an innovative way to motivate Muslims to save for their expenses to perform the Haj.
The validity issue of the Haj subsidy is before the Supreme Court. Time and again, the vested political parties rake up the issue to divide the Indian masses on communal lines.
Inspite of spending around 150 crores on Haj subsidy, the official agencies are unable to provide the best possible assistance and facilities to the pilgrims. We can learn from the unique Malaysian example. It has a Muslim population of about 1.15 million. It is not only helping the pilgrims to go on Haj in a very orderly manner, but also it has created an institution- Tabung Haji which has more than Rs. 5000 crore of funds utilised for the overall benefit of Hajis and poor Muslims.
Our Haj Committee handles Rs.400 crores every year of the pilgrimsí funds, but its accounts are not placed before the Parliament. There should be transparency in the Haj management. The government sends a goodwill mission every year. Our goodwill mission should interact with the other countries. The role of Haj Committee is confined to India. The major role has to be played not in India, but in Jeddah or Makkah or Madinah.
Tabung Haji has devised an innovative way to motivate Muslims to save, in order to provide for their expenses for performing the pilgrimage. It has managed the resources mobilised from small savers in an efficient manner and invested them in industry, commerce, agriculture and real estate in conformity with Islamic principles. In this way, it has not only provided Islamic services to the individuals, but has at the same time operated a huge investment fund using investment techniques conforming to Islamic Shariíah.
Tabung Haji has simplified the pilgrimage process for Malaysians. It has reduced the cost, as well as the risk, discomfort and confusion of past times, and has changed the level and spirit of service provided by the government. One consequence has been a steady increase in the number who annually perform the Haj, from an average of 10,000 in the early 1970s to nearly 100,000 today.
But bringing high standards of efficiency and service to the pilgrimage is only part of Tabung Hajiís objective. The other is to provide a sanctioned means for Muslims to save money for the pilgrimage and to invest this accumulating capital in the countryís economy. Tabung Hajiís achievements in this area are equally impressive.
Beginning with 1,281 depositors in 1963, Tabung Haji now has over 1,000,000 savers whose accumulated deposits amount to more than M$2 billion (US$1,050 million). Tabung Hajiís deposits are insured by the government and its government-given monopoly of pilgrimage management guarantees a steady influx of new deposits.
Tabung Hajiís rapid growth as a savings institution has come about because of its aggressive marketing programme. It has launched new depositor campaigns in schools, govern-ment offices, companies and factories, conducted door-to-door canvassing, set up mobile information units and sought a high profile in the mass media. Anyone who qualifies to be a member of Tabung Hajiói.e., any Malaysian citizen who is a Muslim may make deposits at any of the organisa-tionís 69 regional offices or the national head-quarters, or at any of the 550 post offices around the country. Increasingly, workers have contri-butions deducted from their pay packets.
Tabung Haji also sets membership targets for its state directors each year and then encourages its eager subordinates to exceed them, which they often do. These targets are based on figures showing the total Muslim population of each state, as well as the number of Muslims working in government offices, the police, armed forces, schools, businesses and factories. In this way Tabung Haji now monitors not just pilgrims, but the position, status and income of the entire Malay population. This is in keeping with the governmentís expressed policy of enhancing the position of its Malay citizens, and especially their economic status. In this way, Tabung Haji, uses the savings of its depositors to participate aggressively in the growing economy of Malaysia.
Nearly half of all Tabung Haji funds are invested in rubber, tin, palm oil and other major Malaysian industries. Tabung Haji financial managers evaluate potential investments carefully with an eye not only on reliable performance and high returns, but also on the percentage of Malays among the companyís employees and managers. As a government-approved Investment Institution, Tabung Haji is itself a desirable investment partner for companies seeking to follow government guidelines.
Tabung Haji also owns and operates five companies. Two of these operating plantations have developed over 50,000 acres of oil palm and cocoa on the Malay Peninsula and in the state of Sabah, and an oil processing plant. Its Transport and Trading Corporation which charters pilgrim flights and acts as ticketing agent for pilgrim-related travel, also manufactures and sells special items for pilgrims: the unseamed white ihram garments required for male pilgrims during the holy rites, shoulder-slung passport and money belt, travel bags, cassettes with religious instructions, prayer mats and plastic bottles for carrying home Zamzam.
Today Tabung Haji has become a showcase of modern management. The Malaysian government has granted the agency a monopoly of pilgrimage administration and guarantees its membersí savings accounts, but otherwise maintains a hands-off stance.
The public confidence in Tabung Haji is due to its reputation for integrity and the exceptional dedication of its staff. Another key to Tabung Hajiís performance is the concept of open management which permits both complaints and new ideas to receive swift and serious consideration. The institution invests heavily in employee training and prudent use of modern technology has brought speed, accuracy and efficiency to its operations.