By Khan Akramul Jabbar
In a country where almost 50 percent population lives in poverty needing scarce finance for education, medical, legal and other incidental, unavoidable expenses wastage of limited resource is a cardinal sin.
WAQF or AUQAAF (plural) properties officially totalling to 6 lakh acres and much more (on account of non registration of many more auqaaf with the Waqf board) represent one such asset hugely wasted. This is because of sheer mismanagement, thievery and ignorance about the issue among public at large, more so, the real stake holder, the poor and the downtrodden.
Waqf means to stop, to retain, to prevent from transfer of any kind of property so declared. Such is the scheme, the law and in essence the repeated pronouncement of high courts/the apex court. The intention of the waaqif, the person assigning the property/properties, immovable or movable is of prime importance. Generally the auqaaf are Fi Sabeelillah (for God, creation of God, the weak, the needy, the wayfarer, the community at large for religious and secular uses etc).
Look around and you will find the mutawallis (managers) and even Waqf boards (created as the authorised caretaker) treating valuable and vast properties as their personal properties to do as they will (not will). This sorry state of affairs is on account of the public ignorance of such properties as regards financial benefit accruing therefrom. Does anybody ever ask as to how the rentals, the income otherwise accruing from such properties is being utilised?
It is often pleaded that the tenants occupying properties on meagre rent do not pay even that much. Besides the legal provision for eviction, there is a way to make such properties commercially viable/profitable. The small houses, shops, left over land etc. can be built upon, adding floors, using stilts to which the defaulting tenant can hardly raise an objection. Consider this possibility for areas like Nanapeth in Pune.
Huge landed properties lie vacant in cities and rural areas well connected by roads. The government has come up with Waqf properties development council but for search of knowledge, will and human resource as well, virtually nothing is happening.
To appreciate, the neglect, the misuse, the malfeasance, visit wamsi.nic.in. Locate your state, district, Taluka, village, area and search the current status of the properties. No trust can be registered without the specifics like area, yet majority of the properties show area as 00.000 and even for a Waqf property as stupendous as more than a thousand acres, value is shown as NIL.
Besides the intended beneficiaries, the government is losing hundreds of crores in taxes on account of non commercial exploitation of Waqf properties. Is anybody concerned?
(Author Khan Akramul Jabbar alias A.J. Khan is Retired Chief Commissioner of Income Tax. Mr. Khan completed his MA in English Literature from the prestigious AMU. Currently he is based in Pune and regarded as one of the most vocal, capable and fearless voices on Wakf properties in the nation.)