Amid massive encroachments on waqf properties, especially in posh Hindu-dominated areas, the Gujarat State Waqf Board (GSWB) is slapping recovery notices on as many as 287 Muslim bodies that control 5,000-odd properties for not having made their mandatory contributions for the last several years.
Sources among the Muslim organisations told The Hindu that hundreds of these properties — worth hundreds of crores — were encroached upon thanks to a nexus among politicians, builders and anti-social elements.
For instance, the Board controlled large tracts of land in Ahmedabad’s BJP-dominated areas such as Shivranjani and Law Garden, and in Sarkhej and Lal Darwaja with a sizable Muslim population. Not so any longer.
In many other cities, multistorey buildings have come up on waqf properties right under the nose of the Board or the trusts that run them. As a result, these trusts have limited or virtually no income to contribute anything to the Board. Interestingly, no survey has been done of either the number of encroached properties or the total actual number.
For the record, the Board has 11,428 properties running into 55,000 acres in prime localities across the State and it guestimates that the number could be double. Official sources, requesting anonymity, say it is the duty of the Charity Commissioner’s office to conduct a survey.
The Board, on its part, says it is the legal responsibility of the trusts which run these properties to pay it a share from their earnings. Chairman A.I. Saiyed told The Hindu, “It is the due right of the GSWB to recover as contribution a share of the income earned by trusts from various waqf properties.
And what does the Board, which is the only statutory State government body entrusted with managing and developing these properties, do with the money? Mr. Saiyed says this contribution is used to distribute scholarships to bright Muslim students of standards 10 and 12.
Last year, scholarships worth Rs. 45 lakh were disbursed out of Rs. 75 lakh the Board received as contributions. Mr. Saiyed, an IPS officer who joined the BJP after retirement, agrees that if half of the GSWB properties in the State are streamlined, the funds from sale or rent could be put to much better use for the community.
Mr. Saiyed’s newly refurbished office in the Old Secretariat here has two posters of Chief Minister Narendra Modi congratulating bright Muslim students who earned scholarships from the Board.
However, the Board is supposed to run the show from these contributions and the interest of Rs. 37 lakh it earns from a fixed deposit. There is no budget allocation by the State Government. Mr. Saiyed said: “No Board in Gujarat gets any budgetary allocation and in our case, we don’t even need it.”