Analysis

Works waiting K. Rahman Khan - i

By Syed Zafar Mahmood

Now that K. Rahman Khan (KRK) has taken over as the new Minister of Minority Affairs, the UPA Government’s remaining tenure in the Centre is less than one and a half years. Within the first week of him in office, I met him and presented to him an aide-memoire and explained to him what all can be salvaged even during the remaining fourteen months of his government.

According to our constitutional system, it is the responsibility of the political executive to make the nation’s policies while their implementation is the bureaucracy’s duty. Problems arise when ministers - because of factors like incompetence, lack of initiative and drive, unwillingness to own up responsibility, non-application of mind and lethargy - practically leave the job of policy-making also to the bureaucrats. But the silver lining is that KRK is himself a chartered accountant and has his heart in the right place. We hope that he won’t waste even a single day and would take full command of the Ministry in the real sense of the word.

On 31 July 2011, KRK had stated through TwoCircles.net that it is essential to form a new cadre (Indian Waqf Service) in order to tone up the administration of the seriously ailing Muslim Waqf system as had been strongly recommended by the Sachar Committee. Earlier, as Chairman of the JPC for Waqfs, he had written in his report submitted to the Parliament that the Chief Ministers of almost all the states which the JPC visited had reported that Muslim officers are invariably not available for being posted as CEOs of the state waqf board, because the gross number of Muslim officers in the Government is itself proportionately very low. That is the reason why veterinary doctors, primary teachers, retired deputy tehsildars etc are appointed as Waqf CEOs.

KRK’s statement of truth had provided solace to the paining hearts of the Indian Muslims and their benefactors. Leaders of many national Muslim organizations as well as the National Commission fir Minorities have since advocated the cause of Waqf cadre by writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Minority Affairs. The upcoming fourteen months will unfold how KRK doesn’t buckle under prejudiced misguidance and, instead, implements what he stands for.


Waqf management
All of his other recommendations as Waqf JPC chairman are equally significant and basically essential for an efficient Waqf management. Still, most of them were ignored by the Ministry of Minority Affairs while drafting the Waqf Bill 2010. These include:

1) Magisterial powers for the Chief Executive Officer of the State Waqf Board.
2) Mandatory appointment of Waqf Survey Commissioner in each state and inclusion of all the Waqf properties since 1947 into such survey.
3) Treatment of Waqf Survey Commissioner’s notification as deemed mutation.
4) Mandatory provision in the leasing order of Waqf properties that the rent will be charged at prevalent market rate.
5) Comprehensive definition of the term ‘Encroacher’.
6) Treatment of Waqf properties as ‘Public Premises’ so that it becomes easier to remove encroachment.
7) Conferring on the CEO the powers of eviction.
8) Two years imprisonment and  rupees five lakh penalty for those who encroach on any Waqf property and depositing this penalty amount in the Waqf Fund.
9) Treatment of the encroachment on Waqf property as a cognizable offence.
10) Punishing the government officials who are responsible for not removing encroachment from Waqf property.
11) Comprehensive definition of ‘Waqf premises’.
12) One year time limit for decision of the Waqf Tribunal in each case.
13) Establishing a National Board for Educational Progress of Muslims by utilizing the funds collected from the development of Waqf properties.

This is a set of time-tested and legally-vetted statutory initiative that can help remedy the pathetic plight of the Waqf properties across India. Having found their way into law, these would surely lead to faster and effective progress of the Muslim community. KRK would surely be now chasing and pushing each one of these into the redrafted Waqf Bill.

In the Central Waqf Council Rules, 1998 the only provision regarding the appointment of the Secretary, CWC is that the Minister can appoint any Muslim to this post. No other rule or regulation ever enacted in the country in respect of any other responsible department or institution has been so carelessly formulated. On the other hand, there are comparable laws regarding similar endowments of the Hindu community made by almost a dozen of provincial assemblies. There, it is uniformly provided that, even though they have to be necessarily Hindu, the managers of the endowments must necessarily be high profile, powerful and influential officers of the Government. This is the statutory genesis of why the secretary of the trust of each devasthan or a big temple is invariably a senior IAS officer. On the contrary, in order to be posted as the Secretary of the Central Waqf Council it is not necessary to have any status in the Government. As a result, the CWC Secretary is generally looked down upon by the bureaucrats in the ministries and departments. That is a major contributory factor of the Waqf system in India being in a self-destructive mess. A recent example is the joint meetings of the officers of the CWC and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in implementation of an important Sachar Committee recommendation. The minutes of these meetings show that the ASI has always a unilateral upper hand, often to the chagrin of CWC team, and that there is hardly any utilization of these so-called ‘joint’ meetings where vital issues regarding strategic Waqf properties are supposed to be discussed on equal footing. That is the reason why the Sachar Committee had recommended that the Secretary of the CWC should at least be of the level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, so that the CWC receives due day-to-day recognition in the corridors of governmental power and influence. But, as expected, this important recommendation finds no place in the Waqf Bill 2010 nor any reason was given for its conspicuous omission. KRK needs to particularly focus on this issue.


Prime Minister’s 15 points programme
The monitoring of the implementation of the Prime Minister’s 15 points programme for welfare of minorities, if at all, has gone on reluctantly and sporadically - mostly for namesake. As aptly recommended by Harsh Mander in his 2011 report Promises to Keep, Muslims need to be effectively included in the monitoring mechanism at all levels. The Centre needs to conduct the follow up of the appointments of Urdu teachers at state level. The Guwahati High Court has quashed the proposed Limited Competitive Examination (LCE) - the anti-Muslim “bright idea” of the appointment of additional 1400 IPS officers. KRK will have to follow up with the Home Minister and in the PMO so that the Government does not appeal against the Guwahati High Court. In this regard, KRK’s predecessor had spoken to the Home Minister and the Prime Minister. This needs to be taken to it’s logical conclusion.

Muslim reservation
The Muslim reservation must be adequately defended in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Supreme Court stating that Muslims had been ousted from the list of the scheduled castes through the President’s unconstitutional executive order in 1950. That is the reason why today they are lagging behind educationally, economically and socially when compared with the rest of all other communities. Hence, reservation must be given to them under article 16 of the constitution as Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission has vehemently recommended.

Meanwhile, let us greet KRK in this kurukshetra of restoring justice and equity to the deprived. Let us encourage him to buck up - in the words of Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal: Aabaad hai ek taaza jahaan terey hunar mein. A new world inhabits your heartful acumen !

The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India and was Officer on Special Duty, Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on Muslims (popularly known as Sachar Committee). He can be contacted at info@zakatindia.org

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2013 on page no. 11

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