- A waqf (or wakf) is a religious organisation under Islamic law. It is a charitable trust that holds lands, cash or similar assets in trust for various benevolent purposes such as helping the poor, widows, divorced women and orphans and so on. Waqf endowments are typically tax free. In India, various waqf boards manage lands and assets donated by wealthy individuals and supposedly utilise these resources for the upliftment of the poor; reality however is rather different that this avowed purpose.
- Among the most high profile cases of highly questionable if not downright corrupt waqf actions is the matter of the plot of land sold to Mukesh Ambani for his Mumbai home Antilia. Not only is the home supposed to be the most expensive private home in world, it is also built on some of the costliest real estate in India if not the world. The land was meant to be for an orphanage but was sold to the business tycoon for 210.5 million when in fact the market value was nearly 10 times as much.
- A couple of years ago the Karnataka Wakf Board scam broke. This scam is thought to run to about Rs 2 lakh crore or a staggering 2 trillion. In this matter, about 27,000 acres of land controlled by the state’s wakf board was either allocated illegally or misappropriated. Again this was land donated for the poor, but about 50% of the land was misappropriated by board members or politicians in collusion with real estate mafia. (Source – India Today)
- In another instance of waqf related corruption, Maharashtra Wakf Board chief executive officer (CEO) ND Pathan was caught accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000. The bribe was demanded for extending a lease by the waqf CEO who was apparently known to have issued many suspect no-objection certificates to Mumbai builders. (Source – DNA)
- In Kerala as well, the wakf board and its functioning came under the scanner, for alleged corruption, irregularities and mismanagement of assets by ‘muthuvallies’ (local custodians of Wakf property). Irregularities were found in the construction of the Wakf Board headquarters as well as staff appointments. (Source – Indian Express)
- More recently, Uttar Pradesh Waqf minister Mohd Azam Khan has been charged with appointing corrupt persons to Shia Central Board in the state. The apprehension is that waqf properties would be looted (Source – Times)
- Well known people in posts of some importance have been implicated in these matters of corruption, such as Ahmad Bukhari, the Imam of Jama Masjid of Delhi, Maulana Muazzam Ahmed, the Naib-Imam of the Shahi Masjid, Fatehpuri, Delhi and others. There have been instances of the misappropriation of heritage properties such as the site of the Anglo Arabic School, Ajmeri Gate, Delhi or the case of the Windsor Manor Hotel in Bangalore (worth more than Rs 600 crore, but leased for a Rs 12,000 per month). (Source – Deccan Herald)
- The minority affairs ministry is also thought to be in on the act to use wakf properties and to exploit them commercially. Malls, hotels and other social institutions are found to come up on prime land that was donated for a wholly different purpose than the commercial one that it is actually used for, though the avowed purpose is the welfare of the community. (Source India Today)
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