Rajya Sabha: Dy Chairman K Rahman Khan spoke loudly on Muslim issues

via TwoCircles.net published on March 16, 2011

New Delhi: In the annals of Rajya Sabha, 15th March 2011 will be written as a very special and rare day when Deputy Chairman of the House took active participation in the discussion. K Rahman Khan stood and spoke and he spoke loudly with a clear throat on three most important issues key to socio-economic and educational uplift of the Muslim community in India.

Dr K Rahman Khan talked about wakf properties, interest-free financial institutions and Haj subsidy, and he offered valuable suggestions on these three subjects. KRK, while praising the setting up of ministry of minority affairs at the centre, questioned its performance and the success rate of its mega minority welfare schemes like scholarships, Multi-sectoral Development Program for minority districts. He strongly advocated Muslim reservation, and that too within the parameter of the Constitution of India. He criticized the central government for not fully and honestly implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations.

Dy Speaker raised the issues while the House was discussing Performance of Minority Affairs Ministry.

Wakf Properties

Rajya Sabha Dy Chairman K Rahman Khan proper development of wakf properties can make the entire Muslim community in India self-reliant and independent so much that they will not aks for any scheme or fund from the government for their welfare. He said there are four lakh acres of wakf land across the country, out of which two lakh are encroached or under dispute. The lot of the Muslim community will be uplifted if only the rest two lakh acres of land are properly developed. But he expressed sadness that the government or the ministry of minority affairs has no vision to develop wakf properties.

“The Muslim community has got wakf properties because of the endowments. The Wakf properties in this country are enormous. There are more than four lakh acres of land. Probably, after Defence and the Railways, it is the third major holder of land. Out of this, two lakh acres are under encroachment or under dispute. Sometimes the Government has taken over the land. There are disputes between the Government and the Wakf Board as to whether such and such property is a Wakf property or not. More or less two lakh acres of land are in dispute. Another two lakh acres of land remain. What are you going to do with these two lakh acres of land? Unless you develop it, what is the use of the land?

Take, for example, the small piece of land in Mumbai, which is a Wakf land, where the biggest house of the world belonging to a businessman has come up. The land is a Wakf land. It has been sold for a paltry sum. Take the cases of Tollyganj Club in Kolkata, the Race Course in Kolkata and the Windsor Manor Hotel in Bangalore. All these properties are Wakf properties.”

Suggestion

Thousands of such Wakf properties are there. These properties should be developed. Will then the Muslim community need help from anywhere else? There is no need. They can have their own educational institutions. They can invest. But there is no will, there is no vision. I would like to appeal to the hon. Minister of Minority Affairs to have a vision document on Wakf development.

In fact, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakf has submitted a comprehensive Report. That comprehensive Report deals with various aspects of Wakf. We do not still have an ATR on the JPC Report. Why don’t we create an institutional mechanism to develop these Wakf properties? We don’t need Government patronage, we don’t need Government funds. These 15 crore Muslims of the country should contribute for their own development. Let us not make this community or ask this community to seek help. Empower them; facilitate them to stand on their own legs. This is what is needed.

How much can the Government allocate? It is being said that you have given only Rs. 1 crore in the Budget for Wakf. Even if you give Rs. 100 crores, it will not be sufficient to put up one building. There is a need to have an institutional mechanism. Section 32 (5) of the Wakf Act mandates the Wakf Boards to develop the Wakf properties, but not a single property has been developed by the Wakf Boards. So the blame is not on others; the blame is on us. We have not done our work properly. So I request the hon. Minister to have a vision document on Wakf development. The JPC has said that if Rs. 10,000 crores are invested for developing the Wakf properties, the Muslim community can have an annual income of Rs. 10,000 crores. Making an investment of Rs. 10,000 crores is not a difficult thing. Therefore, I would request the hon. Minister to throw some light on this and see to it that a Wakf Development Corporation at the national level is set up.

There is a need for drastic changes in the Wakf Act, transparency in the appointments of members of Wakf Boards and then see to it that the Wakf Act really works for the development of the Wakf properties. Then there is also a need for a dispute settlement mechanism.

Interest-free Financial Institutions

K Rahman Khan strongly advocated setting up of interest-free financial institutions – the old demand of the Muslim community to save their money to change their lot. He said such institutions will not be an odd as the country already has many such institutions like Mutual Fund and Venture Capital Fund. He said that taking or receiving interest is prohibited in Quran. It is a religious belief; there may not be any logic or justification to it.

“Now, we all know that taking or receiving interest is prohibited in Quran. It is a religious belief; there may not be any logic or justification to it. But now what they are saying is that they want to save money for their own development and, therefore, they want to create an institutional mechanism.

Suggestion

This Mutual Fund, itself, is an investment without interest. If you look at the definition of Mutual Fund, it does not work on interest. And, Mutual Fund is a part of the Islamic economic approach. It is 100 per cent a part of the Islamic approach. Therefore, when you are creating Mutual Funds, when you are creating Venture Capital Funds, if the Community, for its own benefit, wants to create a similar institutional mechanism, they say, “You cannot do that.”

When you look at the world scenario, there is more than one trillion dollars of funds all over the world. The United States have opened it. In fact, all the European countries have given the facility. Then, what is prohibiting our country from doing it? The Prime Minister, when he had visited Malaysia, said that it should be studied. Even then, there is some hesitation.

KRK said that if the government fulfills these two needs of the Muslim community, they will not have to depend on anything. They will be a part of the governance, and they will be able to contribute to the economy. They will also be able to save money through this mechanism.

Hajj

In his speech on the floor of Rajya Sabha, Dy Chairman K Rahman Khan said Haj subsidy was never demanded by the Muslim community, and in fact it is not benefitting any Haji, rather the airliners. He said the government cannot justify the Haj subsidy. He demanded withdrawal of the Haj subsidy, reform in Haj operation mechanism and constitution of a logistic corporation on the pattern of one in Malaysia. He urged the Minority Affairs Minister to take up this issue also under his ambit.

“We did not ask for subsidy. The Muslim community has never asked for the subsidy that you give. Why was the subsidy given? Earlier the pilgrims used to go by ship, but due to various reasons, the ship was cancelled. Then initially, a small subsidy was given to the poor Hajis to go by air. Later on, this was gradually increased from Rs. 10 crore to Rs. 800 crore. Why subsidy? As the hon. Member, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said yesterday, it is a cross-subsidisation to Air India.

Yes, I have been fighting right from 1997 for that; justify the subsidy. I have written to the then Prime Minister; I have also written to the then Minister of Civil Aviation to justify it. For example, Air India is charging Rs. 85,000 per Haji; whereas, if I do not go through the Haj Committee, I can go to Jeddah and come back in only Rs. 35,000. So, Rs. 35,000 is the maximum amount. Even some aircraft are taking Rs. 16,000 or Rs. 20,000 or Rs. 25,000. They say that they are charging Rs. 85,000 because it is a chartered flight, one-way flight. Even if it is a chartered flight, it goes with a hundred per cent capacity. There is no other paraphernalia, no other expenditure. The Hajis are taken in groups.

Suggestion

So, how do you justify this cost of Rs.85,000? Sir, on the Haj matter, there are two issues on which, I think, there is a need for reform. Firstly, there is no need for subsidy. Create a logistic corporation, and give it to them. This is an independent statutory body. You create it, and they can manage its affairs. I have also discussed it with the Minister of External Affairs.”

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