By Khalid Akhter
New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) The government has rejected a recommendation of the Sachar Committee to create Indian Wakf Services on the lines of the civil services to appoint officers to boards that manage Muslim religious and community properties.
A Right To Information (RTI) application was filed to know the reasons behind the rejection of the recommendation by the minority affairs ministry, but it has refused to reply.
“We had filed an RTI application to know the reasons for rejecting the recommendation of the Sachar Committee, but the ministry refused to give an answer for not creating Wakf services saying that it does not come under the purview of the RTI Act,” Zafar Mahmood, president of the Zakat Foundation of India, told IANS. The NGO works for issues concerning the Muslim community.
A senior official in the ministry told IANS on condition of anonymity: “The government has rejected it as to create these services is a complicated process. Also, the Wakf Boards across the country are in a pathetic condition.”
According to the Wakf Act of 1995, only an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer or an officer appointed by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can be appointed as CEO of the central and state wakf boards and the officer has to be a Muslim.
However, the Sachar Committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to study and prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of Indian Muslims found that there was an acute dearth of Muslim officers in the country.
The Sachar report said “where a CEO is not high ranking in the hierarchy of the state bureaucracy, the interests of the Wakf board often suffer”.
The committee recommended that in the civil services tests conducted by the UPSC, an examination for the cadre of Indian Wakf Services should also be included and those Muslims candidates who qualify in the examinations be made CEOs of Wakf boards.
Mahmood, who was once an officer on special duty in the Prime Minister’s Office, pointed out that “most of the CEOs of the 27 Wakf boards in the country are promoted officers and not of the appropriate seniority level, which is not in consonance with the Wakf Act”.
Under the concept of Wakf, Muslims adhering to the principles of ‘endowment’ embedded in Islam donate large and valuable amounts of property in the name of Allah. The proceeds from these properties – from their sale, rent or use for the welfare of the community – are dedicated to meeting the needs of the poor and the maintenance of the property.
There are 27 Wakf boards in the country functioning under different state governments. The states of Haryana and Punjab have a joint Wakf board. Apart from these Wakf boards there is a Central Wakf Council which gives direction to them.
India, with 150 million Muslims, has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.
(Khalid Akhter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)