In 2012, the academy trained 30 aspirants and this year 40 students are taking lessons. Ninety per cent of them are engineering graduates.

Most people may associate a mosque or madrassa with just Koranic teachings, but Makka Masjid on the arterial Anna Salai is aiming to dispel that notion.

Azhagiya Kadan IAS Academy, functioning from the mosque complex for over a year, wants to reiterate the message that securing adequate space in the administrative structure alone can bring in desirable change in the socio-economic conditions of Muslims.

“The door for political empowerment is closed and we are victims of tokenism in politics. So I have decided to open the other door,” said Moulana S. Shamsudeen Qasinin, Chief Imam of the Masjid and the founder of the Academy. The spark for starting the institution came during his Haj pilgrimage a couple of years ago. “Many VIPs from Tamil Nadu discussed the performance of Muslims in local body polls. But I was not impressed. I talked about a different kind of empowerment, as the community in Tamil Nadu has not produced enough IAS or IPS officers,” he said.

Mr Shamsudeen Qasinin said that before going ahead with his plans, he studied the reasons behind the failure of a few other similar academies and decided not to make the same mistakes.

In 2012, the academy trained 30 aspirants and this year 40 students are taking lessons. Ninety per cent of them are engineering graduates. The students get free food, accommodation and coaching. The patrons spend close to Rs 2.5 lakh every month to run the academy.

“We organise motivation camps in all districts. The aspirants should clear an entrance examination. Candidates securing more than 40 per cent marks are shortlisted and final selection is done through interview,” said A. Arif, the academy’s administrative officer.

The academy sources teachers from Shankar IAS Academy, a reputed institution. Classes for preliminary examinations are held in the masjid, while those who are going to take the main examinations regularly visit Shankar IAS academy in Chennai.

“I decided not to take up job offers from Cognizant and Infosys after realising the futility of engineering education,” said J. Mohamed Meerasahib, who has completed preliminaries of UPSC and TNPSC Group 1. “All I acquired was just bookish knowledge and nothing practical.”

H. Akbar Ali, who also cleared the UPSC preliminary and N. Jasim, now preparing for the main examination of the TNPSC Group 1, also agreed that engineering education never gave them a sense of fulfilment.

Hailing from Udankudi in Thoothukudi district, Akbar Ali, son of a cook, said like all children he wanted to become a Collector and hoped the academy could help him achieve the dream.

Mr. Qasinin said he was also planning to start separate classes for Muslim girls. “Probably we will be in a position to do it next year. I need to make proper arrangement as security of girls is paramount,” he said.