Published On:14 July 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Waqf Amendment Bill: Why the community needs to participate

By Shafey Danish

Muslims are probably the most talked about community right now. It is the community which is at the centre of different debates in different continents. Europe for example is debating immigration and social integration with its large immigrant Muslim population in mind. In the US debates around the issues of immigration, terrorism, Middle East, and many others focus on Muslims, because, whatever the specific nuances of specific debates, at their heart is the ‘Muslim question’. China, India, Russia, Sri Lanka and of course Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, all have urgent problems which deal basically with this question.

It is a question which wants to know what is to be done with this strange community, which is the second largest in the world, sits on a huge deposit of a commodity without which modern world cannot run, namely oil, and huge amounts of cash without which global banking institutions like the

IMF and World Bank cannot function. It is a community which is in a majority in 47 countries.

Yet it is a community which is hopelessly backward, inward looking, limited in its vision. It is a community which is under suspicion for terrorism, it is a community which has long supported dictators, (though the Arab world may be changing that), a community dependent on the West, backward in education, without quality schools and colleges, with an adequate banking system, without charismatic leadership, without anything comparable to China’s or even Israel’s industrial and technological achievements.

It is also a community which faces widespread, though subtle discrimination, and provides victims from Chechnya to China and from Palestine to India.

So the ‘Muslim question’ asks, how could this be? The two facts are veritably incompatible. With as much resources as this community has it should have something comparable in weight to the Christian West.

And why, asks the supplementary part of this same question, are Muslims themselves not bothered? Indeed the strangest reality of all this is that Muslims are not bothered. In India, they are not bothered by post-Godhra riots, they are not bothered by the Sacchar report, which sketches in grim detail the true depths of this community’s backwardness. (In some metrics Muslims are even behind the SCs and STs, says the report.)

The Sacchar Committee report is a landmark document. Not only did the committee dig up data which cleared the cobwebs of history but also made recommendations on how the situation can be remedied.

One of the suggestions that it made was to use the humongous land holdings of the Waqf board for the betterment of the Muslims. It said that if a cadre of dedicated personnel could be created on the lines of the Indian Administrative Services, the Waqf properties could generate revenues to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore annually, which constitutes 10% of the total market value of the Waqf properties, which stand at 1.2 lakh crore. (currently waqf properties generate 163 only.)

The amount is huge. If this could really become a reality, then programs designed for Muslims would never be short of funds.

Expectedly, Muslim organizations have been pressing the government to implement this particular recommendations. The matter has gained urgency in the light of the persistent corruption in the running of Waqf properties. It seems not a day goes by when a new story of blatant appropriation of Waqf property does not come to light. The latest is the case in which a Congress MLA rented out prime properties in Lutyens Delhi next to nothing. The Indraprastha Park is also built on Waqf Property without even a formal acquisition of the property by the government.

It is quite apparent that those who run the Waqf board have been blatantly misusing its properties, selling and renting it out, for personal benefits.

Were a dedicated cadre to be created, it is hoped, it would put a stop to such flagrant misuse. It would start to benefit the community it was supposed to benefit.

Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed, is pushing for the Waqf amendment bill which does not incorporate key suggestions of the Sachar committee recommendation. For example, the bill would not create a dedicated cadre, nor does it provide for enough powers for the waqf boards to evict encroachers, as authorities who administer religious endowments can do under Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959.

Prominent critics of the bill, like Zafar Mehmood of Zakat Foundation of India, say that the bill in its present form is too weak. Since the executives who administer the properties today are not qualified enough, they do not have enough traction with the government. For example the Waqf board head for Puduchery is just a matriculate, while that was Andaman and Nicobar is only holds a higher secondary degree.

The Sachar Committee had noted “up to 200 Group A officers are needed to service the wakf affairs across India. ..The government may, therefore, consider creating a new cadre of officers to be recruited by the UPSC so that they can deal with the specific affairs of the wakfs efficiently.”

Zafar Mahmood, who was also officer on special duty with the Sachar Committee, filed an RTI regarding the matter.

“We found that a deputy secretary with the ministry had struck down the recommendation for an Indian Wakf Service in three sentences,” he said.

Apparently the proposal had not been discussed at higher levels at all, with a cabinet note briefly saying, “This is not recommended.”

Salman Khursheed on his part has said that the “The recommendations of Sachar Committee Report are not divine like (the) Quran; they can be wrong also and that’s why one must approach them critically.”

It is clear that amount of money available for Muslim welfare schemes would be a crucial factor in the betterment of the community. It is therefore crucial that everything is done to provide the bill with enough teeth to actually turn matters around. It would be helpful if there was a more widespread discussion on this issue. But sadly it seems that the community is still to wake from its dogmatic slumber.

(Courtesy: Times Wire Service)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on July 14, 2011. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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