Telangana: Wakf Board owns 77k acre land, 35k institutions worth Rs 5L cr but it earns pittance

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: It’s a case of water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Throw a stone in Hyderabad and it is likely to fall on some Wakf property or the other. But unfortunately, the net benefit to the community from this treasure trove is zero. The analogy of chirag taley andehra (darkness beneath the lamp) fits to a T.

With Wakf properties worth over Rs 5 lakh crore, Muslims in Telangana are sitting on a veritable gold mine. The community should have been in a position where it need not look for the crumbs of comfort from government and financial institutions. Rather it should extend monetary support, finance businesses and run its own institutions. But the opposite is true.

Former Minority Affairs Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, once stated that the registered Wakf properties in the country have the potential to generate an annual income of over Rs. 10,000 crore. Muslims need not look to anyone for finance when they have a treasure trove like this at their disposal.

Had the Wakf institutions been properly managed, the story of Muslims going with the begging bowl before the powers-that-be seeking loans and reservations would have been a different one.  Sadly the Wakf Board staff and those heading it are often found to be hand in glove to turn a golden goose into a milch cow. Whoever gets a chance starts squeezing it dry. For small gains, the Wakf officials have allowed costly properties to be sold off for a song. Worse those tasked with protection have turned Nelson’s eye as the pricey Wakf properties are encroached upon left, right, and center. Seeing the Board’s apathy, not just individuals, but even companies and government-run institutions have dared to knock off land parcels. Sadly large tracts of land dedicated to pious and religious purposes are no longer safe.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Shockingly this body fluid also seems to be in short supply. It is crocodile tears that Muslim leaders and activists shed when egged on to safeguard their rich legacy. Of course, everyone is game for a protest rally, sit-in demonstration, and a photo shootout. Nobody is prepared for a long drawn-out battle, a sustained campaign is what is needed to make the authorities sit up and take notice.

This mass inertia has cost the community dearly. The Manikonda Jagir, Guttala Begumpet Idgah, and the GMR Hyderabad Airport are merely the tip of the iceberg. The Wakf Board has given away hundreds of such prime properties on a platter to the government. Despite initial success in the lower courts, the final verdict in the apex court has always gone against the Wakf Board. Call it an inept representation of the cases, lack of will to put up a strong fight, or whatever — Muslims can never pardon themselves for losing properties worth crores of rupees.

Be it Sachar Committee at the national level or Sudhir Commission set up by the Telangana State government, every report has slammed the Wakf Board for its inability to safeguard its properties. If properly managed, Wakf properties can make Muslims self-reliant and uplift them educationally and economically. The community can establish its own educational institutions, hospitals, and banks. Lack of judicial powers is cited as a factor why the Board couldn’t go after the land sharks and take timely action. This apart, most of the time the Board chairman and members don’t see eye to eye and work at cross purposes. This only helps the land grabbers make hay.

One of the richest Muslim endowment bodies, the Telangana State Wakf Board boasts 77,000 acres of landed property and 35,000 institutions. Unfortunately, 70 percent of the land is under encroachment. What is worse is that the Board has no record of some of its encroached properties. Efforts to evict the encroachers have been feeble and tardy. Now the Board’s record room is sealed by the government for ‘protection of records’, a move which is causing more damage than benefit. Result the Board can’t access the records to fight cases in court.

The issue of “misappropriation, misuse, illegal sale and transfer” of Wakf properties has been raised time and again in the State Assembly by the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to no avail.  Nothing has come out of the CB CID inquiry ordered by the government. The fraudulent acts, according to sources, are carried out by changing existing managing committees, appointing pliable persons in key positions, and executing leases without any public auction. More shocking is the pittance of rent being collected from prime properties. The monthly rent of some shops in Hyderabad is as low as Rs 1000 when similar properties in the area fetch huge rents. Most of the Wakf tenants pay rents that were fixed decades ago.

One can never imagine such nefarious activities happening in the Hindu Endowment Department. One of the reasons could be the judicial powers it is endowed with. Also, the presence of an IAS officer at the helm acts as a big deterrent and ensures smooth administration. The Wakf Board could also do with a civil servant. But the government has never been serious about this demand for reasons best known to it.

There is a need to bring about an attitudinal change in the community to bring the focus back on the protection of Wakf institutions in the State and country.

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