Union minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah said in Bhopal on Sunday that her ministry had drafted a bill to protect Waqf Board properties and it would soon be put before the Union Cabinet.
Waqf is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognised by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists.
However, she said, as the government procedures take time, the Muslim community can start a movement or an agitation on their own to free the waqf properties from encroachments.
“If people come forward to agitate, I will agitate with them on this issue.”
The Waqf Board has huge properties across India spread over six lakh acres in all, the minister said.
Citing the Sacchar Committee report on welfare of minorities, she said if the Waqf properties were put to use, they can fetch Rs 12,000 crore annually.
The minister emphasised that if developed commercially, the huge sum of money from waqf properties could be used for the upliftment of Muslims in the country especially in education.
She said 100 waqf properties had been already identified across the country for their commercial development.
Heptullah said across the country wherever government offices were functioning from waqf properties, her ministry would try to negotiate with the government for providing rent for the same.
She said there were two ways to ensure removal of encroachments from the waqf properties.
“First, a legislation should be brought immediately. In the past, a standing committee of parliament had returned a bill in this regard. I have again sent the bill for cabinet approval. Once the bill is passed, it will help us in putting a check on illegal encroachment of waqf properties. Second, the waqf boards should digitise their properties and go for physical verification to identify the exact details about encroachments,” she said.
She was asked about what development works she had undertaken in the Phanda village (20 km from Bhopal) which she had adopted in 2014 under the pradhan mantri sansad adarsh gram yojana and why had she not visited the village in the past. She said if somebody adopted a child, it does not mean the child will always be carried in their lap.
“My team, my people, local MLAs and MPs are working there in the village. This government believes in team work. We have done work there,” she said.
The Narendra Modi government has increased budgetary allocation for minority welfare, she said, adding scholarships for students from the minority communities had been increased by 25%.
Earlier, Heptullah inaugurated a gathering of women writers here. She also attended a programme under ‘Gram Udayse Bharat Uday’ campaign at Phanda village