Ajmer Dargah Committee’s ambitious development plan

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unnamedAn exclusive report from Ajmer by Abdul Bari Masoud,

Taking an inspiration from the Khawja Bandanawaz Gaisudaraz Dargah’s developmental and educational activity, the Dargah committee Khawja Sahab has unveiled an ambitious plan for development and beautification of Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti complex. Besides, providing basic amnesties and facilities to Zaireens (pilgrims), the plan aims to enhance Dargah’s resources and educational activities.

Briefing about the nitty-gritty of development plan, Dargah Committee chairman   Mohamed Obaidullah Sharieff told Muslim Mirror that Dargah has vast properties but no benefits were accruing to it. Under the plan, we want to establish Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Educational Complex that will impart job oriented technical education, especially to Minority communities in the field of Polytechnic, Engineering, Pharmacy and Computers, he said. The oldest seminary Darul Uloom Moinia Usmaniya Dargah Sharif is also being improved to provide systemic class rooms and hostel for scholars.

unnamed (1)One of the biggest problems that zaireens are facing is lack of basic amenities including shortage of toilets. The committee has built a block where 35 toilets have been erected and 55 others are under construction and marked an area for construction of 100 more toilets. On the beautification plan, he said renovation of flooring, gates of the Dragah will be done as it consisted of several white marble buildings and a shade will put in open space.
The congestion and jams are also worrisome problems as the Dargah is situated at the foot of the Taragarh hill. The Dragha complex’s adjacent area is densely populated. Its density for per sq km is staggering 50,000 persons.In the past, attempts were made to de-congest the area but political intervention came in the way as most of the shops from main Dargah gate to Delhi gate belong to Sindhi migrants who settled in the area after partition.  The city receives 6,500 to 8,000 visitors on an average day. And during the Urs time, the number mounts to even a lakh people a day. The gates of the Dargah complex are narrow resulting in huge jams. The committee’s plan includes widening of the gates. However, the work will start after the Urs due in May this year is over. A road from Kayad to Dargah will be broadened and arrangements for proper drainage, traffic and other facilities will also be made according to the development plan.

A large number of women come here but there is no arrangement for them to offer prayers. The committee will utilize the roofs of the Hujare (rooms) in front of the ‘Asthana’ (shrine) for women pilgrims to offer prayers. “We are making arrangement on the roofs where around 40,000 women can offer prayers at one time,” said Sharieff.

Water scarcity becomes acute during the time of annual Urs. For solving this perennial problem, the committee has taken up Jhalra (Reservoir) project with an object to mitigate the huge gap between the demand and supply of water to the tune of 17 Crores liters per annum and the water actually available to Dargah Committee from Public Health Engineering Department to the tune of 23 Lakh Ltrs. Aaround 6000 Sq ft. area of Jhalra was scientifically excavated and cleaned upto 22 feet in depth. During this operation, apart from removal of garbage and debris from the bottom of this reservoir the openings / passes which were closed over the years were opened and made the pathway for groundwater movements and flow. As a result, the committee is getting fresh mineral water of 71 lakhs of liters. The water level of reservoir as on date is 42 feet spread over around 5000 feet. Presently the Committee is pumping daily 4.75 lakh liters of water which is treated through a plant and tripled filtered water is supplied.

The committee has also launched ‘Flowers of Mazar Sharif’ project with an object to utilize these flowers with all Taqaddus (sanctity) and economy. A team of experts under the leadership of Dr. Hamida Abdi, Advisor, and Ministry of Technology & Science has conducted the survey and confirmed the technical feasibility of the project. Sharieff said the flowers are presently dumped into a well on which the Committee is spending Rs. 1.5 Lakh per annum.  Arq-E-Gulab shall be extracted from the flowers which are now dumped into well and there could also be Agarbatti Production from the material available after extraction of Arq-E-Gulab.
The left-over material after the above two process can be converted into manure.
The project will enhance substantial income to the Dargah Committee.

unnamed (2)Dargah Sharif has 395 properties including 163 shops, 98 plots and 14 houses. Out of this 72 are under litigations whereas 67 are lying vacant for future Developmental Activities. There are 21 pieces of Agriculture lands measuring 18.5 hectares.  However, Dargha is getting a pittance from these properties.  A case in point is State Bank of India’s Ajmer branch which is housed in Dargah property.  The building is spread over 5.7 acres and situated in the heart of the city.  Can you believe it! The Bank pays mere Rs. 12 and paise 47 towards annual rent to Dargha for this property. It was initially leased out to Alliance Bank of Shimla in 1864. It was later merged with the Imperial Bank of India (which was rechristened State Bank of India after independence). The initial lease was for 50 years which was extended for another 99 years in 1915. Sharieff told that he had taken up the matter with the Chairman of the State Bank of India in Mumbai and represented the matter to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram through Minister for Minority Affairs Mr. Rahman Khan.

He further revealed that the government had taken over 13 villages belonging to the Dargah by enacting the Jagir Abolition Act and was paying Rs. 13,000 to the Dargah a year towards the rent amount. Moinia School located on a two-acre plot of land belonging to the Dargah also had been taken over by the Government. He said the Dargah’s income from Hundi collection, a 180-room Guest House situated opposite the Ajmer Railway Station and the rental income from other properties was merely Rs. 7 crore annually. The expenditure being incurred was almost the same.

On development plan, Sharieff said the Committee intends to develop   two properties situated at Sabzi Mandi and Sarai Chaman Chisty places in the city. One is being developed as a mall and other one as a residential complex and each project needs Rs 18 corers. He said the Committee has approached the newly formed National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) for funding which has accepted the proposals. He said it will be the first project of NAWADCO. The committee has a fixed deposit of Rs 6.5 crores and its annual income is around Rs 7 crores. He said all the projects will cost around Rs 100 crores.

Dargah’s major source of income is Bari degh (large cauldron) and Chuti degh (small cauldron). Both are situated at the inner vicinity of the Dragah.  Both deghs fetched around Rs 15 crores annually.  A protracted legal battle has been going on between Khuddams and the Committee over the ownership of Deghs. While talking to Muslim Mirror, Anjuman Khuddams’ general secretary Abdul Wahid Chisty said it is the right of Khuddams to take all ‘nazaranas’ of the Degh. He told that the Anjuman puts both deghs on auction for every three months with a base-price of 2 to 3 crores.  Anjuman also runs a school and hospital and provides scholarship to needy students. When this correspondent asked why it did not establish professional institutes like the Gulbarga Dargah has done?  Wahid Chisty said: “‘the partition of the country had made adverse affect here, and it was a question of survival for many years to us.”  When asked why the Khuddams (servants) are not carrying Hazrat Khawja Moinuddin Chisty’s mission of propagating Islam? , he did not respond to it.

Union Minister for Minority Affairs K Rahman Khan has visited Ajmer to see the Dragah development plan.  On the occasion, he was also briefed about the Ajmer Development Authority’s separate Dargha development programme by its officials. It was a plan approved by the Rajasthan Chief Minister Funds.  However, the minister was shocked to see that the Authority has diverted major funds to other works not related to Dargha development.  Expressing displeasure over the projects being carried out by the Authority, he asked the official to review its. He also asked why the officials not consulted with the Dargah Committee in this regard.  The CM has sanctioned 59-66 crores in the year of 2012-2013 for the development of Dragah area but most of the budget spent on building roads in the outer periphery of Dargah and it did not take of widening of roads leading to Dargah. When this correspondent questioned about the diversion of funds, the Ajmer Development Authority’s chief Engineer M K Mathur, who prepared the project, said that there is resistance for the de-congestion plan. He claimed that Authority had consulted all stake-holders before finalizing the project. However, Khuddams and the Dargha Committee refuted his claim saying it had only shown the project to them.  Rehman Khan has directed the Authority that priority should be given to works which are directly related with convenience of people visiting the shrine.  He also informed that under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) Rs 308 crores have been sanctioned for the Ajmer in the 12th year five year Plan.

The new nine-member Dargah committee, which was constituted last year under chairmanship of Obiadullah Sharieff, is a Service Providing Agency and it is making all efforts to improve further the  services to the zaireen in close association with the different agencies.

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