Chennai, Nov 22: Centre is committed to free Waqf properties of encroachment and develop them with the help of a "strong legislation", Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla said on Saturday.
"In the last standing committee meeting (in this regard), all members cutting across political lines supported a strong legislation. As soon as it is passed, we will remove illegal encroachments and develop them," she told reporters here.
She said records of Waqf properties were being digitised and computerised, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "happy" over this effort.
On Samajwadi Party leader and UP Minister Azam Khan's statement that the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra should be handed over to the Waqf Board, she said "Taj Mahal is a national asset and it should be protected."
To a question on why her Ministry was celebrating the 125th anniversary of freedom fighter Abdul Kalam Azad and not that of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, she said the former was chosen not because of his religion but his vision for India's development.
Recalling that he was India's first Education Minister, Heptulla said that the UGC and IIT took shape under him and "he wanted to develop Indians and Indian youth, not just Muslims", and therefore the focus was on him. "He laid the foundation stone for India's future development," she said, adding, even as she hailed Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and S Radhakrishnan were 'great leaders.'
The Minister earlier inaugurated the Regional Office of the National Minorities Development and Finance and the Skill Development Center of Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills. She also signed MoUs with some sector skill councils for skill development.