Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wakf land scam: Govt promises action

Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed promised to crack the whip on errant Wakf Board members who have been accused of selling land meant for the welfare of Muslims at throwaway prices.
Speaking to CNN-IBN on Tuesday, Khursheed said that action would be taken within six weeks against those accused of selling Wakf Board lands.
“The Government is not dragging its feet. We have asked the standing committed to come up with a report in six weeks. There is a difference between encroaching lands and corruption. We will certainly make the right move once we have managed to address the concerns the registration of properties. There is no political intention and we had taken everyone on board,” Khurseed said.
CNN-IBN had on Tuesday accessed a Minority Affairs Ministry report which revealed that land belonging to various Wakf boards in India were being misused and even sold at throwaway prices.
The report contained nationwide details of prevailing corruption in Wakf boards and exposed a nexus involving politicians, community leaders and private developers.
In Maharashtra's Aurangabad district a 14 acre plot of land belonging to Wakf Board was allegedly sold to Nirman Bharati developers for just Rs 8 crore when the actual market rate for it Rs 60 crore. The land was with the board since 1973.
A similar case has been reported in Delhi too where property, including a burial ground has been leased out for a pittance with a Congress MLA and the former Wakf Board chief signing the deal despite objections from within the board.
Congress MLA from Seelampur Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed was the state Wakf Board chairman from 2004 to 2009. Now, details of dubious transactions of Wakf property during his tenure are tumbling out.
The biggest transaction is the 62 bigha burial ground in Outer Delhi known as the Punbaj Khor Kabristan, which was leased out to builder Jitendra Kumar at a price of Rs 25 paisa per square yard in 2006, along with a Rs 1.1 crore donation.
Former Wakf Board member Rana Siddique claimed that he had protested against the decision.
"I protested the decision, but was overruled by the board. It was pittance the money that was agreed upon," said Siddique.
The documents with CNN-IBN have revealed many loopholes. The Wakf Board resolution does not specify the lease tenure, but the Wakf Act does not allow a lease of over three years. As the land has been leased for permanent structures like farm houses, it is clear the Wakf Board can never reclaim the property.
Interestingly, Mateen Ahmed, who is now heading the Housing Committee of the Delhi Vidhan Sabha, does not see anything wrong in the deal.
"It was being wasted. I have not sold the property off. It has only been leased," Ahamed said.
Even the 300-year-old Anglo American School at Ajmeri Gate has not been spared on the pretext of taking over the Dargah Sadullah Naqshbandi within the school compound.
“They are basically trying to encroach upon the school land and this management of the shrine is just an excuse. So we have now moved court,” said Anglo Arabic School Board member Feroz Bakht.
Sections 54 and 55 of the Wakf Act empower the Wakf Board to evict encroachers. The eviction is done through magistrates working for the state government. Over the years, the Wakf Board has passed more than 700 such eviction orders.
But, not one such order has so far been executed by the state government. Given a pliable Wakf Board and an unresponsive government, real estate sharks are grabbing Wakf land at will and for a pittance.

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