The CEOs of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh’s state Waqf boards have been suspended by the Central Waqf Council (CWC) following an investigation in which they were found to be guilty of corruption in dealing with Waqf properties. Four more employees in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh state Waqf boards were suspended after the CWC received reports of alleged corruption from the state governments.

Minister of Minority Affairs (independent charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi confirmed the suspension and said, “We have received some complaints about people in the state Waqf boards who have been misusing their position and facilitating illicit land deals. The Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) is trying its best to weed out such characters in order to ensure a smooth and transparent digitisation process. We want all the Waqf land to be digitised so that the management of Waqf properties can become far more efficient, because this is the only way we can ensure that the Waqf land is used for the purpose it is meant to serve.”

A source within MoMA said, “We know that the employees have been involved in facilitating encroachments or undervaluation of Waqf properties. So when we received information, the CWC ordered the respective state Waqf boards to file reports on the matter. The suspensions have come across after a year of enquiry. These people allowed encroachments on Waqf land and did not carry out the digitisation process fairly. Their suspension is a message for other states, too.”

Earlier this week, Naqvi had addressed the 76th Central Waqf Council meeting where he had announced that over 2,000 criminal cases have been filed in connection with encroachment of Waqf properties against Waqf mafias. Uttar Pradesh has particularly emerged as the most notorious state, with the largest number of cases of Waqf encroachment. Some of these cases are being investigated by the CBI.

According to ministry sources, the subject of suspension of state Waqf board employees was also raised at the CWC meeting held earlier this week. “The CWC members collectively agreed that strict action should be taken against those who are found guilty. If the employees are at fault, then the CEO should report it to the CWC and if the CEO is found guilty, then the Chief Secretary should submit a report on the matter. If CEOs of other states are held accountable in any further investigations, then they will be asked to submit a report on the allegations made against them after which the final decision will lie with the CWC. The same process was followed in current suspensions too, but members unanimously agreed to it,” a source told this newspaper.

According to the ministry’s estimates, there are over 512,556 registered and non-registered Waqf properties. However, the figure is expected to rise dramatically once the ongoing nationwide digitisation process of Waqf properties is completed. Rough estimates of MoMA establish that the approximate value of the total Waqf property in the country exceeds Rs 12 lakh crore. Moreover, 90% of the these Waqf properties are at prime locations in various cities, which is why their current market value is expected to be higher than the rough estimates.

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