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Maharashtra Waqf Board reclaims 120 acres from tycoon


Monday, January 25, 2010 07:29:34 PM, Agencies

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Mumbai: The Maharashtra minorities ministry has reclaimed 120 acres of waqf land in Junnar, near Nashik, from the Chougules of the Chateau Indage group.


According to minorities minister Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan, the land was illegally held by the Chougules for over a decade.


“This 120 acres originally belonged to the Waqf Board. The board had made repeated complaints that the land was being used illegally by the Chougules to raise vineyards and export wine,” said Khan.


Waqf Board CEO SS Qadri said a board trustee had leased the Junnar land to the Chougules. But even after the lease ended, they declined to move out. The trustee failed to issue eviction orders.


The action to reclaim the land came at the behest of other trustees. “We had received repeated requests from the other trustees to take prompt action. Since October 2008, the Waqf Board CEO has had the rights to issue eviction orders, which I did. Yes, we have now taken back this land,” confirmed Qadri.


Managing director, Champagne Indage Ltd, Ranjit Choughule, meanwhile, said that he would speak on the matter only on Monday

The Waqf Board estimates that the Junnar land is worth around Rs 10 lakh an acre. The total value of the land reclaimed could thus be around Rs 10-12 crore.


Qadri said the eviction was possible because of help from the police.

“The Waqf Board needs support from the revenue department and the police. In the case of Junnar, the police supported us in taking prompt action. However, in many other cases, even if I issue orders, the police either delay or do not take action,” alleged Qadri.


The board has 92,000 acres of land in Maharashtra, of which 57,000 acres is in Aurangabad itself. Wakf properties are normally used to build schools, madrassas, masjids and even houses for poor Muslims.

The land is often maintained by local managers called mutawallis. Problems arise if these managers fail to recover leased land when they the leases end or if the property is sold illegally.


“The mutawallis in many cases do not maintain records properly. In many cases they have sold our lands directly. According to the Waqf Board Act, the manager has to inform board members and then take sanction for leases. In the case of Junnar, the local manager and one trustee had directly done the deal,” said Rauf Shaikh, a former Waqf Board CEO.


As a result of mismanagement, over 60% of the lands are in illegal custody. The minister said the board woke up to these problems when it discovered that Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani had bought a plot in Mumbai’s prime locality of Carmichael Road which was formerly wakf property.


There are currently at least 7,000 wakf cases pending in courts across the state. Only 5% of the disputed lands have been restored to the Waqf Board.


The board and the minorities ministry have now drawn up plans to categorise and resolve these cases.


“The first priority is to protect lands that are not disputed. We are taking control of these lands and protecting them with fences and Waqf Board nameplates. The second category comprises disputed lands for which we will form a panel of lawyers to expedite cases and take them through fast-track courts. And lastly there is the renewal of land leases on the basis of the new rental law,” said Khan.








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