Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Wakf has said that the Centre and State governments should make massive investments to “save and develop” Wakf properties under schemes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium towns. For the purpose, the JPC has suggested that a mechanism and a development agency be set up. The ninth report of the JPC was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

Speaking to journalists, Chairman of the JPC K. Rahman Khan said it was estimated that an investment of about Rs.10,000 crore over 10 years would be required to make Wakf properties and buildings return profits. Most of the Wakf properties were on prime land but most of the Wakf Boards were in “bad financial shape”. Although surveys were on to make an assessment, it is estimated that more than 4 lakh acres of land was under Wakf. There are about 3,00,000 registered Wakfs in the country. This number may be revised after the completion about the ongoing surveys.

“Several Wakf properties are being illegally occupied and exploited by unscrupulous builders in connivance with corrupt officials of the State Wakf Boards, Mutawallis (managers) and weak management committees. The Muslim community, which is the main beneficiary, feels helpless at the indifferent attitude of the Central and State governments and are a mute spectator to the exploitation of Wakf properties by vested interests,” said the report.

“Though under the Wakf Act, the entire management of Wakf was in the hands of the Muslims and the Mutawallis, the misuse of majority of the properties had been done by the community itself and it should take the blame for the present state of affairs,” the report observed.

The panel recommended that all Wakf properties leased out by chairperson of Wakf Boards, particularly in States like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and National Capital Region of Delhi be cancelled, as a chairperson had no such authority. The Chairperson of the Central Council should be elected from amongst the members and should not be a politician.

It has also recommended that the process of consultation be hastened between the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Wakf Council and the State Wakf Boards for entering into an agreement over the Wakfs under the protection of the ASI. Mr. Khan declined to comment on the dispute about the Taj Mahal being a Wakf property saying the matter was sub-judice.

The panel took a dim view of Wakf property being acquired by States for purposes other than public interest and at “meagre compensation” and recommended that the adequate compensation be paid at market value. It said that the Wakf Act, 1995, be amended so as to make encroachments a criminal offence. Dedicating a building or a plot of land for charitable purposes or for the welfare of poor and needy Muslims is described as Wakf.