For me Saudi Arabia is like a home away from home –Shahid Alam


Saudi Gazette

— Mohammed Shahid Alam, deputy consul general of India and consul Haj, is leaving the Kingdom on Friday after rendering remarkable contributions to the one million-strong Indian community in the western region of Saudi Arabia as well as to 480,000 Haj pilgrims over a period of more than three years. He will join the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi on April 1. “It was an extremely gratifying and unique experience to serve the Indian community and the Guests of God during my tenure in Jeddah, and for me Saudi Arabia is like a home away from home,” he said.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Alam said that his biggest take away from the Kingdom is the satisfaction which he had while serving the pilgrims whose number was around 4,80,000 in a limited span of over three years. “I also enjoyed the excellent cooperation that I had as if in a family from members of the Indian community as well as from the Saudi government and people. I specially extend sincere gratitude to all my Saudi friends here,” he said, adding that it was a great privilege and a very big responsibility.

Alam, who hails from Danbad in the north Indian state of Jharkhand, had completed IFS training in New Delhi in 2010, and later underwent Arabic language training while serving India’s Embassy in Cairo during 2012 -14. He had served as second secretary at Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi in 2014 and 2015 before being appointed as consul Haj. While working in Abu Dhabi, he arrived at Makkah Haj Mission for two weeks to have the first-hand information about the Haj operation in Sept. 2015 before assuming charge in November the same year.

“The crush and stampede in Mina on 24 Sept. 2015 happened after I came from Abu Dhabi as a consul Haj designate for only two weeks as a bench observer to see the Haj experiments well before the assumption of duty. I was made in charge of tracing the missing pilgrims during the days succeeding the tragedy and while carrying out this assignment in the best possible manner, I realized the magnitude of responsibility that I was going to assume. I then had the feeling that I should be hard working and very meticulous in improving the services for Haj pilgrims as well as to bring down the margin of error.”

“As the consul Haj, I got a unique opportunity to serve huge number of pilgrims and tackle their myriad issues in a very young age and I see this is an unparalleled blessing from Almighty Allah. Getting an opportunity to serve the pilgrims so closely and directly in terms of extending medical services, tracing missing pilgrims and later on meeting these pilgrims and listening to their appreciation and thanking for the services was an extremely gratifying experience,” he said, adding, “Apart from performing duty, this is all gave me greatest satisfaction, self-realization and an extra bonus in the spiritual aspect too.”

Alam noted that the success of any system or officer is whether taking initiative to further improve the system. “I have had the earnest desire to improve the system with the cooperation of the entire mission and the community and hoped that I accomplished that task during my stint in Jeddah.”

The consul noted that the expectations of pilgrims about more improved services and facilities are increasing year by year and there are also remarkable improvements in the services being introduced by the government and people of Saudi Arabia. “Hence this is the most challenging aspect as how we can do better coordination and extension of the desired cooperation to the Saudi authorities to get the best out of the new reforms and initiatives introduced by them, the latest of which was the Makkah Road initiative. Every year, the Saudi authorities introduce new initiatives and we are keen on how to grab such initiatives to the betterment of our pilgrims to the maximum,” he said, while stating, “That will be the most interesting and challenging task for my successor.”

Referring to the dramatic improvement in the services and facilities being extended to the Haj pilgrims with every passing of the year, Shahid said: “If we simply do the routine Haj operation exercise and continue to go the same way, then we have not made any contributions of our own. It is important that there should be qualitative leaps in the services and facilities,” he said while citing the remarkable contributions made by the Haj Mission headed by Consul General Mohd Noor Rahman Sheikh over the last few years.

Alam said there has been a perceptible difference in the quality of accommodation with moving of an overwhelmingly 90 percent of pilgrims to Aziziyah category last year and using of new model of buses for their transportation. “Every pilgrim has accessibility to the social media and are enjoying all the benefits of the information technology. Despite the extreme hot weather and increase in number of pilgrims with the recent raise in quota by 30,000, our challenge was to further improve the services and facilities, and we have scored outstanding achievements in the entire gamut of Haj operation.”

Referring to his contributions as observer of International Indian Schools in Jeddah, Tabuk and Taif, Alam said: “My first priority was to observe whether the rules, procedures, and norms of both the Saudi Ministry of Education and India’s Central Board of Secondary Education are being adhered to. Secondly, I had to tackle with any inter personal and legacy issues that were to be given attention especially in the case of IISJ, and I tried to resolve them with whatever resources available with us.”

“Some of the issues have been resolved while some of them are very entrenched. I hope the present system involving the Ambassador, the Higher Board and the Managing Committee would tackle these issues and come out with solutions with the motto of continue providing qualitative education at affordable rates.”

Alam also thanked the media community for their unflinching support extended to him. “I appreciate the media, which is very rational and keen to crosscheck and verify the facts than going behind sensational issues. There were several issues and the media’s support helped the Haj mission and the Indian community in taking action on some most pressing issues,” he added.