Aam Aadmi Party

Modi government’s new tack on Wakf properties

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

Union Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced this week that all Wakf properties in India would be geo-tagged and digitized. The plans are afoot to provide 100% funding to Wakf properties to develop educational institutions such as schools, colleges, IITs, polytechnics and, hospitals etc. A report of a committee to review wakf properties lease rule has been submitted to the Centre.

State Wakf Boards own more property in India than even Railways and after Defence is country’s largest landowners. It holds six lakh acres of land of $18 billion worth. There are no less than six lakh registered Wakfs in India. These lands are used for functioning/non-functioning mosques, darghas (toms or shrines of Muslim saints), khanqahas (building/space for Sufi brotherhood), maqbaras (tombs), ashoor-khanas (mourning place), kabristans (graveyards), idghas (space for Eid prayers), imam-baras (space for prayers and gatherings) etc.

Wakf (donation), as per legislation in India (Waqf Act 1995) is the “permanent dedication by any person, of any movable or immovable property for any purpose recognized by the Muslim law as pious, religious or charitable.” A property under Wakf can never again change hands by inheritance, sale or seizure and must be used for Muslim community’s welfare. (Article 370 puts the state of Jammu & Kashmir out of its purview.)

The reality is too different from the pious, stated goals. India Today did a massive sting operation two years ago where its team visited a number of Wakf properties whose caretakers (mutawallis) were willing to sell a part of the land. They either had forged permission from State Wakf Boards (yes, under stringent conditions you can sell Wakf property) or confessed that a sizeable amount of sale amount would go to State Wakf Boards as bribe. Outlook magazine, while quoting a few instances, termed Waqf land scams as the biggest in India’s history. Wakf mafia is a reality in today’s India.

Political parties are not above the water too. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing an ex-chairman of the Delhi Wakf Board who was a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the Aam Aadmi Party. Delhi High Court too had come down hard on the Centre, Delhi government, Delhi Police and Delhi Wakf Board for letting Jamia Arabia Nizamia Welfare Education Society get away with misuse of the Wakf property. As against the potential of Rs 10,000 crores income out of Wakf properties every year, only Rs 150 crores annually is generated. Wakf properties in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore alone are worth about Rs 1.5 lakh crore and the estimation is on the lower side.

Asaf A. Fyzee in his book, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, dates back the origin of Wakfs to the life and times of Prophet Muhammad. It was an ingenuous way of securing a conquered property into one of inalienable ownership for perpetuity. Joseph Schacht, an international authority on Islamic law, said: “The Wakf has one of its roots in the contributions to the holy wars which (Prophet) Muhammad had incessantly demanded from his followers in Medina.”

In modern times though there is no Wakf institution in Turkey, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. No less than the Caliph of all Sunni Islam and the Ottoman emperor abolished the institution in 1917. The day after it got its independence, Tunisia abolished Wakfs in 1956. In 1830, the French government took over the Wakf in Algiers, and repeated the measure in Morocco. In Russia, centuries of practice of Wakf was ended soon after the revolution; lands were confiscated and became state property. (for reference, here).

Most of these measures against the Wakf were to free-up the enormous land under its control. In Turkey, in 1925, three-fourths of the arable land was under Wakf. One half of the plowable lands in Algiers was dedicated to Wakf by the end of the 19th century. In Tunisia, it was one-third; in Egypt, one-eighth of the cultivated soil. So much of land, often unused, was harmful to economic growth as indeed is the case in present-day India. (for reference, here).

In India too Wakfs have faced state’s censure though it happened only once and that too under the British rule in the 19th century. The four judges of Privy Council in London described the Wakf as “a perpetuity of the worst and most pernicious kind” and declared it to be invalid. But the Indian state since then has been in retreat. The Mussalman Wakf Validating Act, 1913 was an important saviour for Wakf. The Waqf Act of 1995 has cast it in stone. (for reference, here). The present dispensation in Uttar Pradesh had abolished both the Sunni and Shia Waqf Boards due to allegations of massive scams two years ago but presently it has been stayed by the Supreme Court.

In India, Wakfs dates back to the times of Sultanate of Delhi. S. Athar Husain and S. Khalid Rashid in their book “Wakf Laws and Administration in India” claim that Sultan Muizuddin Sam Ghouri dedicated two villages in favour of Jama Masjid in Multan. Over centuries, various such properties came under Wakf control.

Presently, there are 30 Wakf boards in 28 states/union territories in India. The states of Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and the Union Territory of Daman & Diu don’t have any wakf board. The Wakf Act 1995 is not applicable in Jammu & Kashmir.

Biggest push for Muslims in independent India: Pay attention

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “sabka vishwas(everyone’s trust)”in his oath ceremony. Within a fortnight his government has announced 5-crore scholarships—50% reserved for girl students—over the next five years. There are “bridge courses” for drop-outs. Madarsa teachers are to be imparted modern, scientific training.

It’s the most significant decision taken in favour of Muslims—who are main minority–in independent India.  Yet Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Asaduddin Owaisi, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti—whose lifeline is Muslim votes—aren’t taking note. Our English mainstream media only took perfunctory note. The Hindu ignored the news completely.

The basic primary education of Muslims in India is distributed between madarsas, maktabs (religious schools of mosques) and Urdu-medium schools, the last one accounting for a whopping 50% of Muslim students. The drop-outs are alarming in higher education:  It’s ratio was only 4-5 per cent in 2017-2018, that too largely due to Muslim-dominated institutions such as Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).  There are only 4.9% teachers from the community in higher education.

When education doesn’t enter from the front door, jobs fly out of windows. Government jobs, public sector banks, public sector undertakings, corporate India all become out of bounds. Without jobs, living standards, health, control-on-population suffer. The downward spiral continues generation after generation.

What have the governments done to alleviate the educational malaise of Muslims in India? Under the Congress regime various exercises were taken:  Gopal Singh Minority Panel Report  (1983), National Sample Survey report, Programme of Action under the New Education Policy (1986), revised NEP (1992), Sachar Committee Report (2006) etc. But all these remained on files only: Nothing happened; the stock of Muslims remained in a free fall.

Congress isn’t alone. Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is no better. In his nearly five-years of term in Delhi, nothing has materially changed for Muslims. No growth in jobs in Delhi Metro, Delhi Police, fire department etc. All these parties do is to sell hope and fear to Muslims: a bait which nearly always worked.

Let’s look at Sachar Committee Report. In 2004 General Polls, Congress had 141 seats to BJP’s 138—an advantage of a mere three seats. The coalition politics seated Congress in the Centre.  An important input wasn’t lost on Congress:  Muslim voters had played a major role in its victory.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t mind making a shocking communal statement: Muslims have the first right on India’s resources. Sachar Committee was formed within months to pin down the reasons and draw a roadmap for socio-economic growth of Muslims. Again, all on paper with little intent.

These are the same forces who stoked Muslims’ fears on Modi’s arrival at the helm. Can’t you see there is no Muslim candidates in polls? Don’t you remember Gujarat riots? What about Babri Masjid? Why there are no Iftar parties thrown by BJP? Every stray lynching, every stray remark was woven into the narrative.

Against this optics, the substantive proof of work on the ground was ignored. One isn’t even talking the obvious of  gas, toilets, houses, health, loan benefits etc. Or the raised Haj subsidy. That hike in aids to educational institutions is meaty. Former Chancellor Zafar Sareshwala of Maulana Azad Urdu National University says that Modi government even released the withheld aid of UPA government with a substantial hike of its own. The ramped up budget of Minority Affairs ministry is eye-popping. That jobs for Muslims in Central government have doubled in last five years. No Hindu-Muslim riot has happened in Modi era. Why, even RSS is hosting Eid-Milan parties.

Triple Talaq Bill is a symbolic, if not a seminal measure in freeing one half of Muslims into shaping the growth of their family, society and nation. The corollary of lower population is an obvious benefit of an educated, empowered women force.  Modi government is seeking the three Es (Education, Employment, Empowerment) for millions of Muslims in India.

This is a good moment for Muslims in India to take stock of reality on ground: (a) There is no protest from so-called Hindutva hardliners on Modi government’s latest measure in favour of Muslims; (b) On the other hand, none of their so-called “saviours” have applauded this boon to their community.  A hard-look would show them who stand for Progress and who for Propaganda.



Capital woes of garbage in India

The striking municipal employees of Delhi this week relented after the high court intervention but it appears only a pause before it drops its broom again on rulng Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Typically, AAP sees the role of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its control of Capital’s civic agencies behind this mess at their door.

Mess literally is at every door. In Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ludhiana, Pune—name any city and any town. Strikes only put the pictures in front of our eyes which we feint, dodge, duck, skirt, nose-block or sprint everyday in front of proverbial dhalaos (proverbial garbage dump in our neighbourhoods). Now that you can’t evade the headlines, pictures, putrid smell or rotting garbage on Capital’s streets, and are pinned to the wall, brace for a knock-out punch.

India generates 62 million tonnes of trash every year by its nearly 400 million people living in urban India, now the world’s third-largest garbage accumulator. The World Bank sees a 240 percent rise in it by 2026. Now hold your breath (pun intended), nearly 45 million tonnes of it is untreated. Put it this way, it amounts to nearly 3 million trucks which, if laid in a row would scale half the distance between the earth and the moon.

So let’s take a closer look at this mounting shit. Delhi and Mumbai  (10,000 tonnes of garbage every day) are obviously top of the heap but lesser towns are no less alarming. Ludhiana has crossed a 1,000 tonnes of waste a day and so has Nagpur or Indore. And all of this doesn’t include the industrial waste. Rapid economic growth, flight to cities, overcrowding, pathetic urban planning, corruption, all have taken a heavy toll.

Last month, Mumbai was wrapped in toxic smog for days. So bad was the air quality that schools were ordered close. It so happened that Deonar, one of Mumbai’s biggest landfills, had suddenly caught fire. It receives 5,000 tonnes of waste every day.

Bad news.

Deonar, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claims, would be shut down this year. The landfills in Gorai and Chincholi Bunder have already been closed due to over-use. Same is true of Mulund which is facing a closure.

In Delhi, the waste was dumped into four landfill sites. Three of the four landfills stopped working, so overflowing and hazardous, fire or otherwise, it were. These landfills were extended over 164 acres which is four times less than required area of 650 acres according to a 2011 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). So bad is the situation that even some dhalaos can’t be emptied in the space of a week.

Bangalore onwards. Mandur, at 153 acres, is one of the most controversial landfills of the city. The entrance to the city was blocked by its residents in 2012. They claimed that landfill was poisoning the local water supplies.  Police intervened and dispersed the protestors who then went on a hunger strike. The state government finally intervened and ordered it to be closed.

In August 2012, more than 5,000 people, women, schoolchildren, kids, defied the police in Vilappil, a small village about 15km from Kerala’s captail, Thiruvananthapuram, to protest against a waste treatment plant. Again, the protest was on the contamination of the groundwater. Since then they have moved the Kerala High Court who have referred the matter to National Green Tribunal.

The story of these landfills is horrific in its own account. Not all garbage is collected—only 68 per cent of it by the municipal authorities. Only 28 percent of it is treated. There is no waste segregation system.  It means waste is burnt without separating biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable garbage. A lot of wet waste decomposes. It’s prime habitat for rodents and mosquitoes that spread malaria and dengue. We already know of the contaminated water. The stuff that rots catches fire. Rising smoke fill the air—half of which is deadly methane. Drains are blocked which cause floods. Air and water pollution leads to diseases and a great strain on health infrastructure. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 22 types of diseases can be prevented in India if waste is managed well.

What’s worse, 50 percent of the biodegradable waste could be turned into compost which could support farming. Untapped waste could generate enough power to meet the demands of a small union territory like Pondicherry. Segregation could keep plastics, paper and glass apart. Plastic waste is a crucial fuel for energy plants.

Rules exist but are hardly enforced. For example, a rule states that “landfills should not be near habitations.” What’s near is undefined. So the Deonar site is less than a kilometer away from the nearest residential colony. The rules want scrap-dealers and rag-pickers to be stake-holders in the clean-up operation. But rag-pickers hardly have designated spaces to sort out the rubbish. There is no protective gear against hazardous dumps.

There are some admirable actions on the sidelines though. In Bangalore, there is a non-profit organization called Daily Dump which moves from door-to-door and advocate the waste segregation. They organize a “Trash Trail” which is a nine-hour “expedition” on foot and by van through the city’s waste fields.

Blaming authorities is convenient. The infrastructure has aged. Citizens have their hands soiled with blame too. Most still like to dump their waste away from home, rather than in front of it for easy pick-up.

The Modi government has set its sight on “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission). It aims to collect, process, dispose, recycle and generally manage the garbage in over 4000 Indian towns among other things. This ambitious scheme is of around $10 billion.

Just for facts, China and United States create a higher amount of waste than India. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries create half of world’s garbage. An average person creates waste of around three times his own weight each year.