[Reader-list] The recent big news - Corruption (with an Islamic tinge)

Appu Esthose Suresh appu.es at gmail.com
Sat Sep 12 17:54:48 IST 2009

*This is part of my story, "Cash is King:Is AP the most corrupt state in
India?"  in Covert Magazine on its March1-15 issue this year.
I can say for sure, at least about waqf properties in AP; everyone from the
politicians to waqf board members to bureaucrats collude to sell priceless
properties most of the time at the heart of the city for through away
price...here is one such instance, and a ridiculous explanation from the
Chief Secy

Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy is also presiding over what sources describe as
the completely illegal selling off of Waqf property in the State. There is a
long list of cases where prime Waqf land has been sold for a pittance, with
others getting the bulk of the money. In what is a classic case reflecting
rampant corruption, 100 acres of Waqf property at Manakonda village was
acquired by the State Government and sold to an infrastructure firm Lanco at
throwaway prices. Earlier, a single bench of the Andra Pradesh High Court
declared the land to be Waqf property and in an interim order later stopped
construction. The State Government went in appeal and this order was stayed.
The editor of Siyasat, the Hyderabad-based  Urdu daily, Zaheeruddin Ali Khan
told Covert that Lanco made a profit of Rs 10,000 crores on this property
that was acquired from the Wakf Board at a price of just Rs 60 crores. The
land was initially acquired for an IT park but it has since been changed to
a residential area costing Rs 13,500 crores, while just Rs 427 crores were
paid officially for the land, according to Mr Khan. I*nterestingly, the
Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, J. Hari Narayan, in an affidavit filed on
behalf of the State Government before the High Court stated that in an
earlier Ayodhya-Babri Masjid Land Acquisition case “the Hon’ble Supreme
Court held that even a mosque can be subject to land acquisition. So there
is no immunity to either a Dargah or to a Waqf land being acquired by the
state. So the concept ‘once a waqf always a waqf’ has no legal basis.”*
Individuals, delegations, Opposition parties have all taken up the
acquisition and sale of prime Waqf property, but the Chief Minister has
refused to look into this. *Lanco is owned by Congress MP L. Rajagopal, who
is close to Y.S.R. Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao, who has been vocal against
the State Government on this issue, told Covert, “Once a Waqf property it is
always a Waqf property and no one can acquire or sell it. Unfortunately, the
TDP started the sale of Waqf land, but now the present Government is
continuing with the same policy. It is regrettable that we in the Opposition
were critical of the sale, but are doing the same now.” Mr Rao said that the
Minority Affairs Minister Mohammad Shabir Ali is equally responsible for the
sale of prime Waqf land.* He further said that a parliamentary committee
under Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Rehman Khan, was convinced that
Lanco had acquired Waqf land and urged the State Government to revoke the
deal. But the Chief Minister has taken no remedial action.

On Sat, Sep 12, 2009 at 5:41 PM, Rakesh Iyer <rakesh.rnbdj at gmail.com> wrote:

> Source: Outlook
> Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261789
> Article:
> *Wakf Scam
> *
> *Allah’s Left The Building
> *
> *Meant for Muslim welfare, Wakf lands are being sold for a song by its
> trustees*
>  Saba Naqvi<
> http://www.outlookindia.com/peoplefnl.aspx?pid=3900&author=Saba+Naqvi>
> PRINT <http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?261789>
> SHARE <http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php>
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> COMMENTS <http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261789#comments>
>     Also In This Story
>  delhi wakf board chairman’s view
> On A Wink And A Prayer <http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261791>
> He cannot do much, says the Delhi Wakf board chairman
>    Wakf Deconstructed
>   - *‘To tie down’* is the literal meaning of the Arabic word Wakf. It's
>   used across the Muslim world to denote property donated by individuals
> and
>   institutions in the name of Allah for the benefit of the poor in the
>   community.
>   - *800 years* is how old the institution of Wakf is in India. It began
>   when Muslim rulers donated huge lands for charity.
>   - *3,00,000* is the approximate number of registered Wakf properties in
>   India
>   - *4 lakh acres* is the land Wakf properties account for. According to
>   the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, K. Rahman Khan, this makes the
> board
>   the third-largest landholder after the railways and defence.
>   - *35* is the number of Wakf boards in India, many of them non-functional
>   - *5* is the minimum number of members a board must have. The number,
>   however, varies according to the Muslim population of a state. Members
> are
>   nominated by ruling parties in each state.
>   - *Wakf Acts* The 1954 and 1995 central laws endow huge powers with the
>   state governments that set up and run Wakf boards in their states
> ***
> Modus Operandi
> *Outright sale*
>   - Builder or businessman identifies a Wakf property
>   - They approach members of the board
>   - The land is sold for a pittance
>   - Board members get their cut
> *Cheap rent*
>   - Happens in states where outright sale is not encouraged
>   - Builder/ businessman approaches board members
>   - The land is given on a ridiculously low lease
>   - Land use is changed to facilitate commercial exploitation
>   - Members pocket their cuts
> *Allegations against the board*
>   - Although Wakf is a national resource to be used to develop institutions
>   and earn income for Muslims, it is so terribly managed that it is the
> only
>   system where virtually no accountability is demanded
>   - Cases of blatant corruption abound. Land is sold off for buildings,
>   hotels, malls or factories for a pittance or given out for shockingly low
>   rents to commercial interests.
>   - The boards have become an avenue for political patronage. Muslims who
>   cannot be accommodated in ministries are sent off here. They mostly never
> do
>   anything for the community. In most cases, they are hand-in-glove with
> the
>   land mafia and encroachers.
>   - The "Islam in danger" sentiment is crudely raised to hoodwink the
>   Muslim public and stop any real scrutiny of the functioning of boards,
> whose
>   members are out to make a fast buck
>   - Ironically, Wakf boards keep claiming properties protected by the ASI
>   as "living" religious shrines. In many cases, there is a clear monetary
>   incentive under the guise of religion.
>   - The mess in the boards is also a reflection of the apathy of state
>   governments. Many have not constituted boards; none have carried out a
>   survey of Wakf properties as required by the 1995 Act.
>   - As a result of this mess, 70 per cent of Wakf properties are encroached
>   upon, often in connivance with board members or government department
>   overseeing.
> *Allow encroachments*
>   - The board covertly encourages Muslims to encroach on a monument. Friday
>   prayers begin to be held on a regular basis. Wakf board then attempts to
>   make it a ‘living’ place of worship. Very often, the encroachers are
> board
>   members or persons acting on their behalf.
>   - Later  surrounding land is sold/ leased as  private property for
>   commercial  purposes.
> ***
> It is collectively the biggest land scam in India’s history. Wakf can be
> described as a religious endowment made in the name of Allah for the
> benefit
> of the poor and needy in the Muslim community. There are approximately
> 3,00,000 registered Wakf properties in India on about four lakh acres of
> land. It is a national resource that should have been developed for the
> welfare of the community, as it is meant to.
> Instead, this resource has been mortgaged, sold and encroached upon with
> the
> connivance of the very institutions and individuals responsible for
> safeguarding it. This is an investigation into a systemic rot. The Wakf
> boards in most states of India are repositories of corruption, in league
> with land sharks and builders. They continue to get away with the daylight
> robbery of their own community because, whenever there is any demand for
> scrutiny, they crudely take cover behind the “Islam in danger” sentiment.
> Earlier, a sale or exchange of land had to have the approval of the
> district
> judge. Now the board pretty much does what it wants.
> Rahman Khan, deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, was chairman of the joint
> parliamentary committee on Wakf that submitted its report a year ago.
> Having
> examined the issue in depth, he says: “If the Wakf properties were managed
> properly, many problems of Muslims such as joblessness, lack of education
> and resultant poverty would have been resolved. Today, even if we presume
> that 70 per cent of these properties have been encroached upon or sold off,
> even the remaining 30 per cent is a huge resource that can be developed.”
> He
> has already recommended to the Manmohan Singh government that there be a
> “total change” in the constitution of the boards and a national Wakf
> development corporation be set up with professionals at the helm. “Imagine
> what great institutions can be built as the land cost is zero,” he says.
> But that is some distance away and will happen only if public awareness
> about the scale of the problem is created. Currently, those who purport to
> be leaders of the community are complicit in the conspiracy to rob
> resources
> while perpetuating a siege mentality. They want to capture existing
> institutions and sell them off piece by piece. They are adept at fanning
> fears and feeding into the victimhood syndrome but quite incapable of
> building institutions or shepherding the community towards modernity. Atyab
> Siddiqui, advocate and standing counsel of the Jamia Millia Islamia
> university, says that “anytime we talk of reforming Wakf, they bring
> religion into it”. According to him, the 1995 Wakf Act actually increased
> corruption within the boards. Earlier, any sale or exchange of land had to
> be cleared by a district judge. “But now,” he says, “the board can pretty
> much do what it likes, and shocking decisions are taken all the time.”
> Some examples of suspect land deals from across the land:
>   - *Chennai:* In 1997, the Tamil Nadu Wakf Board took the decision to
>   outright sell 1,710 square feet of land in the commercialised Triplicane
>   High street in Madras for a paltry Rs 3 lakh. A sale like this would have
>   required the sanction of two-thirds of the board members.
>   - *Mumbai:* The Maharashtra Wakf Board got a measly Rs 16 lakh for 4,532
>   square metres in the upscale Altamount Road on which none other than
> Mukesh
>   Ambani is building his plush 27-storey home.
>   - *Bangalore:* Developed on about five acres of land, the Windsor Manor
>   hotel here was till recently giving the board a rent of Rs 12,000 a month
>   for a property worth Rs 500 crore.
>   - *Faridabad:* The Wakf board has been giving out about five acres of
>   land on 11-month leases for several years at a ridiculously low rent
> between
>   Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per month. A factory was built and land use altered.
> When *Outlook* approached Salman Khursheed, the Union minister for minority
> affairs, he admitted that “Wakf is one of those areas in which
> accountability has not been demanded. The community itself has not demanded
> accountability possibly due to a level of ignorance”. Can things change?
> Khursheed says he has proposed changes in the existing laws. “Once there
> was
> no accountability in the management of Haj. Now questions are asked all the
> time,” he points out. “Although the Wakf situation looks impossible, things
> do and can change once awareness builds up.”
> The heart of the problem lies in the constitution of the boards. A senior
> bureaucrat familiar with the issue says bluntly: “The boards are
> ill-constituted, not constituted or politically constituted. Often, they’re
> nothing more than a gang of thieves.” Mostly, political hangers-on and
> operators from the minority community are sent off to man the boards. The
> policies of successive governments have created a class of “sarkari
> Musalmans” adept at capturing institutions and bagging positions through
> which they can patronise others down the pecking order. The incentive they
> have, besides authority, is to pilfer as much as they can get away with.
> The policies of successive governments have created a class of ‘sarkari
> Musalmans’ who are adept at capturing institutions.
> There are enough examples of how a small group of “insiders” at Muslim
> institutions benefit from the overall laxity in the boards. For instance,
> there is the case of a member of the Delhi minorities commission running a
> private school on a large tract of Wakf land in the expensive Nizamuddin
> area and paying the board a pittance of Rs 1,000 rent per month. Mohammad
> Arif, section officer in charge of properties in the Delhi Wakf office,
> admits reluctantly that there are “some schools running on Wakf land but
> they are not for the poor and charge fees”. Further digging reveals that,
> two decades ago, Delhi Wakf ran a charitable dispensary but it was shut
> down. Now the main service they provide is paying salaries of imams
> attached
> to masjids (see On a Wink and a
> Prayer<http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261791>).
> There are two revealing cases linked to the huge Fatehpuri mosque in Delhi.
> According to some documents accessed by *Outlook*, what was listed as “Wakf
> estate number 6540 in masjid Fatehpuri” was occupied by a branch of the
> Punjab National Bank. The board fought a case and got the property vacated.
> Subsequently, however, it leased the property to a society headed by one of
> its own members, a Maulana Moazzam Ahmad. A blatant case of insider
> trading?
> Three years ago, a lawyer representing a school running inside the
> Fatehpuri
> mosque tried to get a shop at the entrance removed. The Wakf board claimed
> that the documents relevant for that plot of land were missing—it was
> widely
> suspected that the shopkeeper was paying off members. Salman Khursheed also
> pleads helplessness. “What do we do when the boards let their own
> properties
> be encroached upon and then say the documents are missing and they have
> lost
> the title deeds?”
> That is, in fact, the most common tactic used when the boards are in league
> with encroachers. RS deputy chairman Rahman Khan says that there is no
> doubt
> that almost 70 to 80 per cent of Wakf land is encroached upon. Often, it is
> the government that simply takes over the land. But all too often Muslims
> themselves are the encroachers who pay off board members to live inside
> mosques and shrines or run shops and businesses on the premises.
> “Corruption
> in the boards is rampant,” says Rahman Khan, “and this is made worse by the
> attitude of state governments to Muslim institutions. They don’t want to
> interfere in case there is a reaction and they also don’t care because
> Muslims are involved.”
> Standing counsel for Jamia Millia Islamia Atyab Siddiqui says that whenever
> there is an initiative from educated Muslims to preserve a legacy, build an
> institution or perhaps even introduce modern education, there is a run-in
> with the Wakf board. “We believe the Wakf does not have the instruments to
> preserve old mosques and we have been arguing that the ASI is better
> positioned to manage properties. But the problem that enlightened sections
> of society face is that they run up against monetary interests of a few who
> hide behind the guise of religion.” K.K. Mohammad is a veteran ASI
> archaeologist who has worked across India. Now the superintending
> archaeologist for the Delhi circle, he says, “My experience shows me that
> whenever people claim protected monuments as living shrines, there is a
> commercial incentive of occupying the monument or developing the land
> around
> it. All communities have people who do this.”
> Most old Wakf properties have caretakers who treat it like a personal
> fiefdom, building houses and businesses and destroying the character of the
> shrine. Siddiqui has been part of the initiative to preserve the historic
> Anglo-Arabic school in Delhi’s Ajmeri gate area. He says, “The high court
> ordered the removal of encroachers (about 50 families) from the heritage
> property. But the same lot of property dealers, local toughs, interlopers
> are again trying to move in under the Wakf umbrella.”
> Andhra has the largest number of Wakf properties registered in the country.
> Here the government has simply taken over land.
> Across the country, there are examples of the huge Wakf mess. West Bengal
> has many cases of properties being encroached upon and made into little
> slums. Some examples: 4,000 illegal occupants are in possession of a
> property in Calcutta known as the Mysore Family Fateha Fund Wakf Estate.
> Over a hundred mosques in Calcutta and Howrah have been encroached upon.
> Sixty-four other mosques in the state have been illegally occupied. The
> story is somewhat different in Andhra Pradesh, which has the largest number
> of Wakf properties registered in the country. Here the government has
> simply
> taken over huge tracts of Wakf lands. For instance, Hyderabad’s hi-tech
> city
> stands on Wakf land. There is the interesting case of the government taking
> over 6,000 acres of land worth Rs 500 crore in Visakhapatnam and allotting
> 900 acres out of this to NTPC and 800 acres to the Hindujas at the rate of
> Rs 2.25 lakh per acre. When the Wakf board contested this, the Supreme
> Court
> ruled in its favour saying that the land was theirs and transferred it back
> to them. The government had to then transfer the money to the Wakf board.
> Clearly, Wakf is a remarkable resource that can be tapped for the
> community.
> In a state like Kerala where people are literate and demand accountability,
> the board is manned by professionals and headed by two advocates, not by
> racketeers. Bureaucrats in the ministry of minority affairs in New Delhi
> cite the work done in Kerala as an example of what is possible. But that is
> an exception. The norm is rampant corruption, in the firm belief that no
> one
> will demand accountability.
> More than anything else, the terrible state of Wakf properties in India
> reflects on the Muslim community’s failure to build institutions. Compare
> this with the manner in which the tiny Christian minority has preserved and
> built schools, colleges and hospitals. There is a complex set of reasons
> for
> this state of affairs in institutions that purport to work for the welfare
> of the country’s largest minority and the world’s second-largest Muslim
> population. In the case of Wakf, many illiterate Muslims just see their
> placards and presume the land belongs to them. They are encouraged to
> believe there is some higher religious purpose to Wakf, little knowing that
> it has become a synonym for daylight robbery. The greatest hypocrisy
> perhaps
> is that the men who violate the spirit of charity behind the concept of
> Wakf
> then pretend to be devout and pious believers.
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