Hopeful at quantum jump in annual income
Srinagar: The All-Muslim J&K Wakf Board on Monday said that the board was on the path of “revival” and would soon be able to start new programmes in the construction and social sectors for the promotion of down-trodden sections of Muslims in Kashmir.
In his first press conference since he took over the reins of Wakf, Peer Muhammad Hussain conceded that the board – meant for the furthering of Muslim interests– was being seen as an agency to recruit political workers. However he claimed that his hands were “clear” as he “did not engage any such persons”.
“Yes, we engage (people), but that is seasonal, like gardeners,” he said. “Their term ends with the end of the season. We have engaged only four junior engineers, and I assure you that a most transparent process was adopted, more so even than that of government departments,” he claimed.
With a meagre income of Rs 24 crore a year from all its resources and assets, which include orchards, shops, shrines and buildings, Hussain said that the expenditure of the Wakf exceeds what it earns. “Very soon,” he asserted during a presser at his office next to the National Conference headquarters here, “our income will see an increase of about Rs 10 crore.”
J&K Wakf, he said, “owns around 1,600 shops. A thousand shops are in Srinagar, but we earned only Rs 2 crore as rent from them.”
The Wakf has 947 employees, and most of its income goes into their salaries.
“Now, after hiring an agency, we have done a scientific assessment of the rents as per market value, and new rates are being fixed,” he said. “By new rates, the annual income from these shops will be around Rs 7 crore, which will help us augment our needs.”
However, Hussain maintained, “We will take care of the aim for which the Wakf Board was formed.” He was responding to a question on whether Wakf was “mulling capitalist path to generate income”.
“There was a rift with traders, but now the issue has been resolved and all stake holders are on board. Rates have increased but not equal to market prices,” he said.
To support his claim that people need to abandon the thinking that Wakf property is “Maal-i-Ganimut”, Hussain said, “New shops were constructed at Amira Kadal, and we have got around Rs 1 crore as its premium only. Rents have been fixed according to market prices. People need to know that Wakf can’t run on peanuts.”
Hussain said that a report has been prepared by a government-appointed committee, which will soon be presented before the governors of the J&K Wakf Board. “After the report is approved, we will start new programmes,” he added.
He said that rent rates are revised after every 11 months according to the J&K Wakf Board Act. “We can cancel the licence if a shopkeeper or anyone else doesn’t abide by the law,” he said. “It is unfortunate that courts issue stay orders despite the fact that only high courts have jurisdiction over the J&K Wakf Board.”
“Even a sessions court can’t issue any order in favour of or against Wakf,” he said. “So far, we have been able to vacate 23 stay orders, but this process is taking time and money as well.”
The VC informed the audience that the majority of the Waqf’s income is generated by the Shrines spread across Kashmir, but that “80 percent of the donations received at the shrines are grabbed by the caretakers of the Shrines.”
“Wakf gets only 20 percent,” he said. “We are regulating this system and process.”
In order to make 1,200 kanal orchards owned by Wakf profitable, he said, the board has started the “process of revival of the land”. “At Asham (in Bandipora), we have turned 25 kanals of land out of 600 kanals into high-density apple orchards.
“We have procured plants from outside, and a proper irrigation system has been put in place,” he said. “And in future, we are turning around 50 kanals of land at Lassipora and Hajibal in high-density apple orchards as well.”
The idea is, he said, “to get more profit from less land”.
He said that the board was recovering encroached land at two places. “At Eidgah in Srinagar, we have recovered 50 kanals of land, and fencing has been done one side. Process is ongoing, even if residential houses come in the way; we will take them over but we will get back what belongs to Wakf.”
At Barthana in Srinagar, he said, “There is a vegetable farm we are only getting a meagre rent from; we will see what to do.”
Hussian said that the Wakf was supporting students’ education. From this session, it started a coaching programme for KAS aspirants. “Through IUST Awantipora, we selected 35 candidates out of whom 30 were selected for the KAS Mains examination. All of them are being taught at IMPA Srinagar, and their financial needs are being supported by the Wakf. It is a residential coaching programme, the first of its kind,” he claimed.
On a complaint by Kashmir-based Madrassas that allege that the Wakf was not registering them, Hussain said, “We are not authorised to give them certificates.”
Huge funding by the Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India, is pending unused for want of registration of Madrassas that are required to get registration from Wakf or J&K BOSE.
He said that Wakf is running 73 schools including four +2 level schools. “We are on the path of enhancing the quality of teaching.”
He said that work on two Wakf-supported nursing colleges is also proceeding. “We have to give Rs 4 crore annually to the colleges, and they won’t face any problem.”
On the occasion, Wakf officials revealed that it had distributed 10,000 bags of essentials during the 2014 floods. “We prepared 1,000 bags which included 10 kgs of rice, oil, dals and other essentials to run kitchens.”