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Trustees sell Wakf land at throwaway prices

CNN-IBN
Sep 09, 2010 at 03:29pm IST

New Delhi: A Minority Affairs Ministry report accessed by CNN-IBN reveals that land belonging to various Wakf boards in India are being misused and even sold at throwaway prices.

The report contains nationwide details of prevailing corruption in Wakf boards. It exposes a nexus involving politicians, community leaders and private developers.

In Maharashtra's Aurangabad district a 14 acre plot of land belonging to Wakf Board was allegedly sold to Nirman Bharati developers for just Rs 8 crore when the actual market rate for it Rs 60 crore. The land was with the board since 1973.

What highlights the possible nexus between the politicians and those in-charge of using the land for the betterment of the Muslims is the fact that Diliprao Deshmukh, a Congress MLC and brother of Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was one of the directors in Nirman Bharati, when the deal was signed.

Those who are aware of this practice allege collusion between the trustees and the builder lobby.

"Such blatant sale is common. The trustees are hand-in-glove with builder lobby and Wakf board looks the other way or sometimes even gets a cut," says lawyer Sana Baugwala.

After a furore against the sale, the matter is now pending before the Aurangabad High court.

"I can't talk about this case since it is subjudice. I was Director in the said company for 18 days only," Diliprao Deshmukh told CNN-IBN.

Meanwhile, allegations of sale, shockingly low rental rates, under-hand land deals continue discreetly. The Maharashtra Wakf Board owns and maintains over 23 thousand Wakf properties spanning 92,000 acres. As per a government survey report, 60 per cent of this has been encroached upon.

The three-storey mall, Citi Centre which is worth Rs 300 crore, stands on what used to be an orphanage under the Haji Zakariya Ahmed Patel Mohammadan Orphanage & Asylum Trust.

According to documents with CNN-IBN, trustees of the orphanage in Mumbai Central, sold 13,800 sq m or 3 acres of land for Rs 1 crore in September 2004 to Neel Kamal Realtors & Builders Pvt Ltd. Its market rate is estimated to be Rs 100 crore.

When CNN-IBN spoke to the trustees, they defended their decision saying that the land property was sold off for commercial use since it had become a liability to maintain. Since the property was registered under the Bombay Public trust, the sale was allowed. The then Wakf Board CEO MA Aziz ratified the sale.

"The charity commissioner gave permission for the sale of the property to Citi Centre after Wakf Board issued notice," says Haji Ahmed Pathan, Wakf Board member.

The Pir Baghdadi dargah in the heart of Mumbai's Dadar area is also currently under the scanner for allegations of financial irregularities in its lease agreement.

Devotees like Sher Khan allege the trustees rented out over 4000 sq ft of the dargah terrace to a hotel for shockingly low rates.

"In a central and business location like Dadar, you cannot give away 4100 sq ft at throwaway prices. It would be worth at least Rs 14 crore. But they sold it to them at Rs 70 lakh," alleges Sher Khan.

With losses of about Rs 1,000 crore annually due to low valuation of its properties, the Wakf Board submitted a report to the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Rajya Sabha in 2007 which had details of the state-wide encroachment of its land, litigation and others under disputes.

The man at the helm of affairs at the Wakf Board is as controversial as the deal they strike. CEO SS Qadri had been in the board since 2008 but earlier this month, he was shunted out amidst allegations of corruption in land dealings.

"The board CEO went out of his way to accept his brother-in-law's tender. The court had given a status quo on the property. How could the CEO even invite tenders in such case,” says social activist Mirza Rafatullah.

Mirza has also lodged an FIR against Qadri for what he claims was an illegal tender to develop a 20 acre open plot at the historical site of Aurangabad's Daulatabad Fort that is now dotted with encroachments.

The transaction that Qadri approved even illegally allowed for transfer of the property to his relative.

A huge resource that could be developed for the Muslim community's welfare has been systematically mortgaged, sold and encroached upon in connivance with the same individuals who are supposed to safeguard it. Unless the state and the Centre step in, such a blatant misuse will go unnoticed.

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