Agencies, New Delhi
Nearing 10 years of being in power, with Lok Sabha elections due in about two months, Ms Sonia Gandhi-headed UPA today sought to reassure the minorities that the government was committed to their safety and security and indicated that the Prevention of Communal Violence bill be introduced in the coming Parliament session.
Parliament will be meeting for its last session from February 5 before the Lok Sabha elections and the Bill could be introduced only in this session before the term of the present government expires.
Ms Gandhi said the Bill had already got the Cabinet approval and it would be introduced in Parliament soon.
Cautioning the people against forces trying to weaken the secular fabric of the country, she said the law and order machinery should be on guard to prevent small incidents from snowballing into a communally volatile situation.
And if such a situation happens, the authorities should deal firmly with the situation.
The UPA Chairperson was speaking at the launch of the National Wakf Development Corporation(NAWADCO), a function at which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also assured the minorities of his government’s commitment for their development and protection.
The creation of the NAWADCO for transparent and commercially useful development of Wakf properties is the implementation of one of the major recommendation of the Sachar Committee formed by the UPA Government to report on the social, economic and educational backwardness of Muslims.
Ms Gandhi pointed out that unity in diversity was the hallmark of the country’s culture and it was while recognising this characteristic of the Indian society that the Constitution provides full safeguards for rights of minorities and protection of secular values.
Describing the launch of NAWADCO as an important milestone in the government’s efforts for development of minorities, she said the implementation of the Sachar Committee Report was yielding good results.
She pointed out that in the last 10 years, expenditure on the minority development had gone up ten times with implementation of programmes like the Prime Minister’s 15-point programmes and the Multi-sectoral Development Schemes.
‘’The aim is to give minorities an equal share in the development of the country,’’ Ms Gandhi said. Ms Gandhi also acknowledged the fact that the benefit of the schemes were not reaching the targeted sections and so it was necessary that these schemes were implemented in a way that they served their purpose.
She also sought to underline that empowering minority women was very important for the UPA government and mentioned the schemes launched by the government to make them self-reliant.
The Prime Minister in his remarks, said the UPA Government had been unwavering in its commitment for the protection and promotion of the interests of minorities.
‘’We have implemented most of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. The 15 point programme and the Multi-sectoral Development Programme are large initiatives focused on removing the development deficit which some minorities suffer from,’’ he said
He said NAWADCO established with an authorized share capital of Rs 500 Crore would facilitate and mobilise financial resources for setting up of facilities like schools, colleges, hospitals on waqf properties for community purposes in a transparent manner.
‘’I have been told that there are more than 4.9 lakh registered waqf properties in India today which fetch an annual income of about Rs 163 crore. Many of these properties have the potential of generating considerable returns, which in turn could be used for the socio-economic development of the Muslim community. As per the estimates of the Sachar Committee, if these properties are properly developed, they could fetch an annual income of about Rs 12,000 crore, assuming an annual return of 10 per cent on the value of the property. It is this vast potential that NAWADCO will strive to realise.,’’ Dr Singh said.
He said the Government recently amended the Waqf Act to bring transparency in administration of waqf properties and provide an enabling environment for the development and utilisation of waqf lands to the
benefit of the Muslim community.
The amended Act had particularly strengthened the role of Central Waqf Council (CWC), which was established to advise the Government on matters pertaining to the working of State Waqf Boards and proper administration of waqf properties, and the body was now empowered to issue directives to State Waqf Boards on their performance, particularly on their financial performance, survey of waqf properties, maintenance of waqf deeds, and prevention of encroachment of waqf properties.