Awqaf in India
Experience has shown that wherever the Waqf lands have been put to efficient use in India, they have generated an average return of about 20%. If utilized efficiently, its value and income can now grow to facilitate upgrading of educational status and the economic and social well-being of Indian Muslims, says Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam.
Waqf is earmarking of a part of one’s property in perpetuity for charitable purposes, as an act of piety in the eye of Allah. It is most significant for the development of any community or country. In India, the most popular objectives of awqaf include:
1. Establishing, maintaining and fostering educational institutions, hostels, libraries, sports facilities and so on;
2. Awarding of scholarships so as to promote education;
3. Providing health care, relief and financial aid to all poor, including the victims of communal riots and natural disasters;
4. Construction of musafir khanas and marriage halls for community use;
5. Maintenance of mosques, dargahs, graveyards and consolidation of waqf properties
6. Financial support to poor widows, indigent and physically handicapped persons; arranging the marriage of indigent girls and maintenance of divorced women;
7. Payment of salary to Imams and muezzins as ordered by the Supreme Court of India.
These waqfs are generally in the form of agricultural land, commercial and residential properties, mosques, dargahs, khanqahs, maqbaras, ashoorkhanas, qabristans (graveyards), takiyas (sufi hospices), idgahs, imambaras, anjumans and so on.
Possibilities of Better Use
The market value of India’s waqf properties, as reported in 2006, was Rs. 1.2 lakh crore (Rs. 1,200 billion). Put to efficient and marketable use, they can generate a minimum return of 10%, which is about Rs. 12,000 crore per annum.
Experience has shown that wherever the Waqf lands have been put to efficient use they have generated an average return of about 20%. As per Point No. 6 above, the loans provided by the Central Wakfs Council to State Wakf Boards for investment and development produced a rate of return of about 20% as the 21st century unfolded [Sachar Committee Report, p.219, 2006]. Now its value and income can grow to facilitate upgrading of educational status and the economic and social well-being of Muslims. The Committee has, however, put a caveat saying, “The optimum utilization of Wakf properties would require proper administrative back up by the central and state governments as well as legislative support by way of crucial amendments to the Wakf Act and some other pieces of existing legislation”.
Hurdles in the Fulfilment of Waqf Objectives
1. Inadequate empowerment of the waqf boards
2. Waqfs are treated by mutawallis as their personal properties
3. From dargahs the offerings are appropriated by mutawallis
4. Mutawallis do not come forward to seek grants or loans from Central Waqf
Council or Wakf Boards for the development of the waqf properties
5. Proposals for educational institutions are replaced by them for construction of shops
6. Rental is negotiated at low level in lieu of extraneous considerations
Ailments and Treatments
1. Waqf properties which subserve larger public interest should be protected, as such a policy will lead to effective social cohesion and economic development. Therefore, an effort should be made not to include such properties for land acquisition.
2. The records of waqf properties are not well maintained and are prone to the vagaries of weather, mutilation and loss, and, therefore, call for immediate remedial action like digitisation under a government programme. The Central Government may consider special grants through the Central Waqf Council to undertake this task and supervise the quality of documentation.
3. In spite of listing in statutory surveys, often these properties are not registered as waqfs in revenue records and in the records of the local self-governments resulting into a lot of prolonged litigation.
4. Encroachments on the waqf properties are made not only by private persons but also by the government and its agencies, either without rent or other payments of any sort or on nominal rent which has not been revised for decades. The number of private encroachments is large. They are scattered all over the country and are often involved in litigation. Focused attention is, therefore, called for on encroachments by the State that is the custodian of the waqf interests.
5. The attitude of the state governments and their agencies has resulted in large-scale abrogation of the cherished and charitable objectives of the waqfs for which such endowments were created. In fact, encroachment by the State on the waqf lands, besides causing embarrassment to the authorities and emboldening private encroachers, has stood in the way of reform and reconstruction. As early as nineteen seventies Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote a letter to the chief ministers asking them to either vacate or pay to the Waqf Boards the market value of the waqf properties. Alternatively, the directive was to pay lease rent at market rates for the waqf properties encroached upon by governments and their agencies.
6. Need for fresh institutional support for optimum use of property is being severely felt. Presently, state Waqf Boards comprise Muslim MPs, MLAs and some others. They may not be necessarily equipped with the technical expertise and knowledge required to exploit the waqf resources optimally. The importance of stricter monitoring of the use of technology and modern management techniques in management of awqaf in general and the vacation of encroachments in particular cannot be over-emphasized.
Measures to Overcome Problems
1. Assess, ascertain and identify the Waqf properties in the country.
2. Identify the Waqf properties which have been encroached upon in various States and Union Territories and to suggest ways to retrieve the properties.
3. Identify the Waqf properties illegally gifted, transferred, mortgaged, leased or sold etc. and to suggest ways to fix responsibility and to retrieve the property.
4. Suggest ways and measures for proper utilization of the Waqf properties.
5. Ascertain the status of implementation of the Waqf Act 1995 by various State Governments.
6. Suggest such amendments to the Waqf Act 1995 as may be considered necessary, so as to achieve its objectives including retrieval of the Waqf properties encroached upon.
7. To examine the functioning of the Central Waqf Council and suggest suitable measures for making it effective.
8. To look into the working of the State Waqf Boards and recommend suitable measures for their proper and smooth functioning.
9. Suggest suitable measures to realize all or any of the above objects.
[From a welcome address by Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, in a seminar on ‘Awqaf in India’ organized by K.K. Educational & Charitable Trust, Bangalore in association with Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi; and Karnataka State Board of Awqaf, Bangalore on 25-26 June, 2015]