Keen on law to remove Waqf property encroachment: Minister

 

New Delhi: Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla Wednesday said her ministry is keen on bringing a law for removing encroachment from Waqf properties, and will try to pass a bill in this regard in the upcoming winter session of parliament.

"We need to remove encroachment from the Waqf lands," Heptulla said Wednesday, addressing a press conference in the series of conferences being held on completion of 100 days of her ministry.

"A bill which will enable us to remove this encroachment is pending in parliament. I will talk to the parliamentary affairs minister to pass it in the winter session," she said.

It is estimated that the market value of the Waqf lands under illegal occupation in the state is about Rs.30,000 crore. With the new law coming into force, the Waqf Board will be able to reclaim its property and will be able to safeguard its assets in future.

There is nearly six lakh acre land under the Waqf board, which can generate a revenue of Rs.12,000 crore per year.

"If we can get that money, the ministry will not need government fund for development of minorities," she said.

Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Bill, 2013, treats Waqf properties as public premises and makes encroachment punishable by up to six months.

The bill, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in February, has been referred to the standing committee on social justice and empowerment.

A National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) has already been formed for managing Waqf property worth more than Rs.1.2 lakh crore across the country in a transparent manner.

Waqf is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognised by Muslim law.

Waqf board is the third largest body with land and properties under it after defence and railways in India.

Talking about the priorities of her ministry, the minister said she wanted to change the mindset that the Narendra Modi-led government is not in favour of minorities.

"When our government came, there were rumours that this ministry would be shut. However, the prime minister told me to work specifically for the Muslims, who have not got their basic rights in 60 years of Independence," Heptulla said.

"I want to change this mentality," she said.

The minority affairs ministry has under its ambit Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.

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