The government’s revenue generation model for Wakf properties aimed at gathering funds for minority welfare appears to be losing steam. Muslim welfare organisation say official apathy and lack of pragmatic approach are putting a spoke in the wheel, limiting revenue potential of the properties to a bare minimum.
Further, apprehensions are that the government move to lease out the properties would result in handing over the prime land to the affluent for a song. The Muslim welfare organisations, citing the past experiences, fear that the proposed lease period of 30 years will hardly help the Muslims at large. “The properties leased out in the past are yielding peanuts. Even, rents are not being collected regularly from tenants of 82 shops in Imdad Ghar, in the heart of Vijayawada, right under the nose of the Wakf Board authorities who have their office in the same building,” says Muslim Samkshema Samithi general secretary Altaf Raza, adding that it is not the isolated case, but the same is happening at Wakf building at Samarang Chowk or Pyaz ka Panja too.
“The move to lease out the properties for 30 years will pave the way for official encroachment,” he feels.
However, Wakf Board Inspector Haider claims only two shopkeepers in Imad Ghar have not paid rents for the last five years, putting the dues at Rs. 2.5 lakh, adding that criminal cases have been initiated against them. Other shopkeepers skipping rent payment will not be more than 2 to 3 months, he says.
Muslim United Front president Habeebur Rehman feels the model does not have a pragmatic approach. “No measures are taken to revise rental value of the properties or collect dues. The government can invite open tenders for lease or give the properties on rent which should be revised every year and the lease period should not exceed three years,” he suggests.
Apart from this encroachment has emerged as a major issue. Despite Wakf Act, 1995 in place and a GO374 issued to form district-wise task force panels to protect the properties, 1,240 acre of the total 2663.56 acre in Krishna district is under grab, apart from the 437 acre under court litigations, , says Mr. Raza.
Minority Welfare Commissioner Shaik Mohammed Iqbal recently has said that every step would be taken to protect Wakf properties, adding that the government has formed panels in all districts, which was not the case earlier.