What is Waqf?
Waqf is a permanent dedication of movable and immovable properties for religious places or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by generous Muslims for the welfare of the poor and needy and for maintaining properties dedicated to mosques, tombs, orphanages, madrasahs and the likes. Under Muslim rule, the Qazis ensured that the mutawallis discharged their duties fairly. For breach of trust, they were duly punished.
But sadly this huge resource has been mortgaged,sold and encroached upon with the connivance of the very institution and the individuals responsible for safeguarding it.The Waqf boards in most states of India are repositories of corruption in league with local land sharks and builders(a few newspaper clippings will give you an Idea of the state of affairs). They continue to get away with the daylight robbery of their own community because there is hardly any demand for scrutiny or accountability from the community which is grossly ignorant or unmindful of the systematic loot.
USES OF INCOME FROM THE WAQF PROPERTIES:
1.Establishing,maintaining and fostering the educational institutions,libraries and so on.
2. Awarding scholarships so as to promote education.
3.Providing healthcare,relief and financial aid to all poor.
4. Construction of musafirkhanas and marriage halls for community use. 5.Maintenance of masjids, dargahs, grave yards and consolidation of Waqf properties. 6.Financial support to poor, widows,physically handicapped persons, arranging the marriage of orphans and maintenance of divorced wives.
7.Payment of salary of Imams and Muezzins as ordered by the Supreme Court of India.
AREA AND WORTH OF THE WAQF PROPERTIES:
TOI reported that according to the Waqf Management System of India (WAMSI) projects, there are 6,16,732 waqf properties under various State Waqf Boards as on 31st January 2020. Of these, Uttar Pradesh has 1,62,229 waqf properties followed by West Bengal with 80,480 and 54,194 in Karnataka.
The current market value of Waqf properties is not assessed or given by any Waqf Board but the Sachar Committee Report had stated the value to be over Rs1.25 lakh crores(Almost 15 years back).But the income from these properties were a mere Rs 170 crores.Sachar Committee had estimated that, Waqf properties,if properly developed with a minimum return of 10% will earn an income of Rs. 12,000 crore per year The total area under Waqf properties all over India is estimated at about 6 lakh acres. It is the third largest area after Railway and Defence..
WAQF PROPERTIES IN WEST BENGAL
West Bengal had approximately 184,000 Waqf properties which was 31% of the total waqf properties in India. With Waqf properties worth more than Rs. 70,000 crore in West Bengal, Muslims will not need any government help if waqf revenues arei properly collected and utilised for their benefits. Imams and Muezzins may be given as honorarium 5 times more than they are getting now.
It is a great tragedy of the community that 70% of the waqf properties have been sold by Mutawallis with the help of officials and politicians during the last 40-45 years. Party offices, bus depot, ware houses, departmental stores, shopping malls, housing complexes,football grounds, clubs, and offices have come up on the land which once belonged to the Waqf Board.
In matter of Waqf properties, accountability has not been demanded by anyone possibly because Muslims are ignorant about the issue.Control of a Madrasah or Masjids, internal problems of a school or college, the control of various Muslim organisations or clubs will be the matter of prestige and preference for the Muslim leaders and activists.The Bengali or Urdu newspapers cannot afford to put the government in a discomfortable position by raising or highlighting the issues. The usurpation or immoral possession of the Waqf properties is so rampant and insignificant that many prominent persons from the community itself will be found to be taking advantage of the rot in the system without being embarrassed or apologetic.
In 1996 when irregularities were detected in the dealings of Waqf properties and it drew the attention of the government, the Chief Minister Sri Jyoti Basu constituted a Committee under Justice Gitesh Ranjan Bhattacharya in March 1997.On 29th August 1996 Mr. Priyaranjan Dasmunshi demanded an enquiry in “the 1000 crores Waqf Scam”in the Parliament.
The Committee had found that 9 Waqf estates changed hands between 1980-85 and 117 between 1986-95.Of these, 28 were sold, 47 leased out, 21 exchanged and 30 handed over to promoters. The Registrar of Waqf Board was unable to produce any legal documents, deeds or agreement but only a few board resolutions.
Justice Bhattacharya in his report and also according to the information available from other sources, the total amount involved as a result of scandals and irregularities in respect of 160 waqf properties only is worth Rs 1300 crores.
On the basis of the report of the Committee, the prime accused was arrested but many felt that he was made an escapegoat to save many bigwigs in the party.
To give an idea of the method and magnitude of the loot of the Waqf properties in Bengal, the excerpt from the article titled “Corruption at its peak in Bengal Waqf Board” published in 2002 is given:
“In 30 years ( between 1947 to 1977) there have been 159 cases of transfer of waqf properties. ‘Prince’ Gulam Muhammad waqf properties only are worth thousands of crores of rupees which are under government occupation in one way or the other. In a brief period of 12 years ( between 1982 to 1995) waqf properties in Calcutta only have been looted or illegally occupied which are estimated to be worth billions of rupees. If inquiries are made about the waqf properties in the whole of Bengal, particularly in Hoogly, Malda, Midnapore, Murshidabad etc, their value will reach thousands of crores of rupees.
More than 32 waqf properties and extremely valuable pieces of land worth Rs 600 crores and historical buildings have been sold illegally to non-Muslim capitalists, middlemen and builders at throw-away prices.
Fourteen waqf properties and valuable assets worth Rs 400 crores and lands measuring lakhs of sq. ft have been given on 100 years lease at throw-away prices.
Dozens of waqf properties of historical importance worth crores of rupees have been divided and sub-divided.
Historical buildings built on waqf lands have been demolished and grand buildings are being constructed there.
More than half of Bengal Waqf Board lands and properties have been lost by way of misdeeds and misappropriations by Muslims themselves.
Within a small period of 13 years only, waqf properties at approximately 160 places at Theatre Road, Jhawtalla, Park Street and Dharamtalla Street upto Alimuddin Street have been sold at extremely cheap rates or agreements have been entered into for their sale at the same rates.
Waqf lands measuring approximately 10 lakhs sq ft have been gobbled up and reduced to 32,000 sq ft only through cheating and have been distributed by the cheats among themselves.
Ownership rights for 200 katthas of land together with the residence of Tipu Sultan’s family situated at Tollygunj and Satish Mukherjee Road under Prince Ghulam Mohammad Trust Estate set up for the betterment and welfare of Tipu Sultan’s family have been given to the famous businessman Manpurya.
Precious lands and other properties of Auqaf have been given at extremely cheap rate to famous Marwari businessmen Seth Kishan Dhariwal, Daleep Sing, Babu Poddar, Mehta Barapatri, Sonawat and Manpuriya and middlemen and builders.
More than forty (40) stately buildings of waqf are under illegal occupation of Muslims themselves. Almost 6 khatta of land of 70/74 Shakespear Sarani were taken on 99-years lease for only Rs 2 lakh for the improvement of Muslim Girls Hostel but given to others whereas the market value of this land at that time was Rs 20 lakh per khatta. Losses worth crores of rupees were thus incurred”.
To understand the level of mismanagement and undervaluation of the Waqf properties,we should find how the Waqf properties are being utilised. Kolkata has nearly 1000 waqf properties of which Prince Ghulam Mohammad Waqf properties are valued over Rs.1000 crores. The most noteworthy are Shaw Wallace Building at Bankshall Street. Royal Calcutta Golf Club(RCGC) and Tollygunj Club spread across 305 bighas pay a pittance in comparison to what amount should be paid.Look around yourself and make an estimate of the value of these properties and their justified rent at market value.You will be hugely disappointed to know what the Waqf Board is actually getting.
After coming to power,the Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee had announced in 2012 that the CBI will probe Waqf Scam worth Rs. 1000 crores. Later due to lack of manpower the CBI agreed to probe the matter of only 16 properties at prime locations. As is the case with the Black money stashed in the bank accounts in foreign countries which was supposed to be brought back and given to the indians, the poor Muslims in Bengal will never get their due amount of scholarship, schools, health facilities or stipends because it will be very unsavoury to disclose the names of the beneficiaries of the scam and the pimps from the community.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
1.Rent of the properties under commercial/residential use should be according the market rate of the other surrounding properties.
2.Encroached properties should be identified and marked prominently .Let the local people be aware about the Waqf properties in their areas so that they can resist if it is sold or reconstructed illegally.
3.The list of all the Waqf properties be made available on the Waqf Board’s site.The Supreme Court had ordered the state Boards to furnish the list of properties.
4. The relatively less encroached properties should be freed earlier and put to better utilisation as per the Waqf rules.
5.Secure all the open properties with high walls and hang a sign board of “TRSSPASSERS WILL BE PROSTITUTED”