GIS to manage Wakf properties

There are around half a million Wakf properties in India, according to conservative estimates. These assets are created when a donation, either land, building or even cash, is given for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The motive is to utilize the donation to benefit the weaker sections of the society and maintenance of the property.

“The revenue generated from a Wakf property should be used for the social good of the weaker sections of the society, and not restricted to any religion,” said Naeem Ahmed, director, technical, and national programme co-ordinator, Wamsi, National Informatics Centre.

Wamsi is short for Wakf Management System of India.

Most of the Wakf properties were created at least half a decade earlier. But over time, many properties were misappropriated, encroached upon and are in neglect.

According to the Sachar committee report titled Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, which was submitted in 2006, the total area under Wakf properties all over India is estimated at about 600,000 acres at a book value at about Rs.6,000 crore.

However, the annual income from these properties were only about Rs.163 crore, which amounts to a meagre rate of return of 2.7%. The report added that as the book values of the Wakf properties are about half a century old, the current value can safely be estimated to be several times more and the market value of the Wakf properties can be put at Rs.1.2 trillion.

According to the report, if these properties are put to efficient and marketable use, they can generate at least a minimum return of 10%, or about Rs.12,000 crore per annum.

Keeping this in mind, a joint parliamentary committee in its final report in 2009 asked for the creation of a system to manage these properties. The ministry of minority affairs then launched the Wamsi project.

“The Wamsi system is used to manage Wakf properties during their lifecycle, right from the creation till the end,” said Ahmed.

The management of properties include registration of properties, keeping track of annual income, welfare measures taken by utilizing the revenue, managing the leasing of these properties and tracking litigations on these properties.

All the information about Wakf properties is available for everyone to see at www.wamsi.nic.in.

The Wakf board at each state is entrusted with the job of registration of properties in their respective states and upload all details on the Wamsi system, and for the purpose, each board has been given monetary assistance.

According to the figures available, of the declared Wakf properties, around 67% have registered in the Wamsi module.

“Anyone can go on the website and look up where Wakf properties are located and how they are managed,” said H.P. Sharma, deputy director general, National Informatics Centre, and chairperson of the Wamsi management committee.

In fact, a report by the select committee on the Wakf (Amendment) Bill, 2010, recommended that a survey of Wakfs should be done within a specific period and that the survey data be appropriately reflected in the land records by the revenue authorities.

It also asked for prohibition on the sale and gift of Wakf properties and stringent penal provisions to be in place to prevent encroachments and to streamline the process of removal of encroachments.

“The most common problem with a Wakf property is that since no one owns it, and everyone has a share in it, people start encroaching,” said Ahmed.

In 2014, the Wamsi system introduced an innovative way of tracking encroachments on Wakfs. “We introduced the GIS (geographical information system) feature to map the property on the earth’s surface by fixing the co-ordinates of the vertices of Wakf properties,” said Ahmed.

By fixing the layout of the property in the database through satellite imagery, a comparison can be done of historical images to ascertain any new construction or encroachments over the period of time.

“It can then be used to take administrative action to restore the property by the state Wakf board concerned,” said Sharma, adding that GIS mapping is at an early stage, but both registration and mapping can happen simultaneously.

According to Ahmed, the tougher part is gathering data on the ground of the vertices of the property.

However, both Ahmed and Sharma are hopeful that since they have demonstrated the proof of concept, it can be implemented throughout the country.

“We have even got a query from a Hindu temple body based in Puducherry asking if they could use the Wamsi features; it can be customized as per their requirement,” said Ahmed.

The Wamsi brochure says the system could be helpful to other interested countries where the Islamic concept of Wakf is prevalent and these include countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait, Egypt, Armenia, Malaysia and Pakistan, among others.

Ahmed believes that in the future, most Wakf properties will be managed well and used for the purpose for which they were created. “Since the information is in the public domain, it will work as a deterrent for encroachers,” he added.

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