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Waqf Board stands smeared with serious corruption

Maharashtra has around 97,000 acres of Waqf land. The Marathas and Peshwas who ruled Maharashtra in 18h century also documented the land as waqf property. In 1923, during the British rule, the document was again notified as waqf property in the Bombay gazette. The survey of 1997-2000 confirmed it again. Earlier too the Congress party urged and demanded a full-fledged probe into the Waqf properties, as number of properties, encroachments and the ongoing disputes, especially between the Revenue and other government departments with the Waqf Board. There are many accusations of corruption against several officials of the Waqf board suggest that the real duties of these officials have changed from maintaining of Waqf properties for the benefit of Muslim community to using their authority and power in illegally selling off  Waqf lands and properties at cheap rates in return for cut offs. Hardly any community member is ever benefited from these lands allotted for Muslim welfare; many Muslims in India are shelter less even today after 72 years of independence. In spite of owning property spanning 600,000 acres, Muslims are one of the poorest communities in India. Waqf means donation of transferrable or fixed property by Muslims for the welfare of the poor and the needy and for maintaining properties dedicated to mosques, tombs, orphanages, shrines, imambaras, madrasas and the like. The waqif has the right to employ either himself or any Muslim as mutawalli (manager or custodian or caretaker). Waqf endowments can be made in any form as enshrined in Qazis Act II of 1864, Dargah Khwaja Saheb Act of 1955, Central Waqf Act of 1954, Waqf Amendment Act of 1959, UP Muslim Act of 1960, to name a few. The waqif (pilgrim or the settler), in his deed, appoints a mutawalli for the administration of the Waqf.

Since ages, the greedy politicians, police, bureaucrats and land mafia covet Waqf property because those can be found mostly in prime localities. Unfortunately, most of the corrupt officials who sit on Waqf boards are Muslims well aware of the implications of violating pledges made for charitable purposes. This, despite the fact that Waqf property cannot be sold. The interested parties have found ways to circumvent this obligation. Many such properties are leased out after pockets of the officials concerned have been adequately lined. A builder or businessman first identifies a Waqf property, approaches the members or chairman of the local board and acquires it for a mite after bribing the board members. Lack of accountability and a defined law in this regard come to their aid. Thousands of mosques and even graveyards have been encroached upon likewise across the country.

The Waqf boards invariably have members who are puppets in the hands of the state governments, which are involved in fixing them in the first place. As such, most are incompetent about Waqf management and relevant laws. The City Centre Mall that stands in Mumbai Central was constructed on land bought from the Waqf Board of Maharashtra. Before City Centre Mall was constructed on that land, an Orphanage under the Haji Zakariya Ahmed Patel Mohammadan Orphanage and Asylum Trust used to stand there. This land was sold for just Rs 1 crore in September 2004 to Neel Kamal Realtors & Builders Pvt Ltd. The estimated value of that land in 2004 was Rs 100 Crores! How Waqf has become an institution deeply mired in corruption can be gauged from the land scam perpetrated by the Maharashtra Waqf Board. It sold a 4,535 square-metre Waqf plot in the upmarket Altamount Road to Mukesh Ambani for a mere Rs 21.05 crore in 2003 when its market value was not less than Rs 500 crore. Ambani’s 27-storey home stands on the plot now. Waqf boards have almost institutionalised the tendency to wheel and deal in land donated in the name of God. Only a transparent system of management can extinguish the culture of corruption, nepotism and greed that is consuming Waqf endowments in India.

The Maharashtra Waqf Board chief executive officer (CEO) ND Pathan was caught red-handed taking bribe of Rs 30 lakh by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. He is known to have issued several non-objection certificates to builders in Mumbai illegally. The Waqf Board of Maharashtra gave out the ‘No Objection Certificate’ for the sale of the 4,535 square metres in the Altamount Road, on which Mukesh Ambani have constructed his plush home, for just Rs 16 lakh. Why is the Wakf Board selling their lands in the first place and even if they are selling it then why take a pittance instead of crores? The deal has been termed by many as illegal or shady. Aarif Naseem Khan of the Congress from Chandiwali is also alleged for misusing lots of Waqf lands for private construction business, he also let other builders come up with their construction projects in Mumbai’s prime Waqf land. For which AV has all papers. Waqf corruption in India can be said to signify the most systematically managed daylight robbery in Mumbai and across India, perpetrated over decades. Waqf boards have almost established the tendency to wheel and deal in land donated in the name of Allah by the affluent for the upkeep of orphans, widows, divorced women, educational and charitable purposes and other social causes.

There are additional allegations of financial irregularities in the leasing of a part of the Pir Baghdadi dargah in Mumbai by the Waqf Board to a hotel for a mere Rs 70 lakh whereas the property’s value is close to Rs 14 crore. Similarly, the Crime Investigation Department has registered four separate cases of criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy against former Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board chairman Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani alias Khusro Poasha and others for allegedly causing huge loss to the Board by misusing their official positions and leasing or selling Waqf Property at very cheap rates. Waqf endowments in India are staggering. There are around 800,000 registered properties and as much as 600,000 acres of land, the largest in the world. Today, the Waqf Board stands smeared with serious corruption allegations. There are various corruption cases against them from all over the country.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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