SRINAGAR: The Kashmiri business community on Tuesday demanded from the Waqf board, a government-managed trust for maintaining shrines and helping poor sections of society, an immediate rollback of its ‘exorbitant and illegal’ rent hike.
Talking to reporters, President of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation (KTMF) Mohammad Yaseen Khan said that the Waqf board had hiked the rent of its properties by 3000 percent unilaterally without consulting tenants.
“A Waqf rented shopkeeper was paying Rs 10,000 a year. At the end of 2016, the same shopkeeper was asked to pay Rs 3.5 lakh without even consulting the tenant. This illegal hike goes against the Indian Supreme Court guidelines. The board should immediately roll back this hike,” Khan said.
The Waqf board owns nearly 1300-1400 shops, two hotels, one hotel in Srinagar city, and several thousand kanals of land in the Valley. Insiders in the board said that shops and other commercial establishments generate only Rs 2.44 crore annually, as against the ‘potential’ of more than Rs 10 crore.
Khan said that the business community would have had no issues if the board had hiked the rent by 15 percent.
Tenant of a Waqf-owned hotel, Bashir Sidiq, told Kashmir Reader he received a bill of Rs 1 crore from the board against the rent of Rs 3.5 lakh.
“In the 1960s my father had taken control of the hotel when he was declared the highest bidder. Then we paid Rs 12000 and since then the rent has reached Rs 3.5 lakh. The last time the hotel rent was hiked was in 2012. This year I expected a 15 percent hike that I was willing to pay, but it was an utter shock when I received the bill of Rs 1 crore,” Bashir said.
He said the hike would set a wrong precedent for the other 2.5 lakh landlords of shopkeepers who have rented their properties across the Valley.
“The Waqf’s decision would have a cascading effect on all shopkeepers. If anything untoward happens, it is the government’s responsibility,” he said.
President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mushtaq Ahmad asked the government to constitute a rent assessment committee and study the rent patterns of all the Waqf properties.
“Make trade bodies part of the committee and the study. Whatever be its outcome, we are ready to accept it. We want this issue to be resolved amicably and not with hostility,” Mushtaq said.