TS Wakf Board record room remains sealed for five years; no sign of opening it any early

What is the Telangana State Wakf Board – a body which falsely boasts of its autonomous nature. The government has closed down its Record Room some five years ago.  The board has done precious little, except meekly pleading with the government to open.

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The significance of the record room, in general, cannot be overstated. Perhaps it is best that we explain to the board its importance. Record rooms across departments contain crucial, historical documents that are pivotal to its functioning, and may end up providing the legal basis on which cases for legitimacy are fought in courts. In the case of the Wakf Board, there are thousands of records pertaining to wakf properties across the state. This implies nearly 34,000 institutions and over 75,000 acres of land.

To think the Wakf Board has to take permission from an official from the Department of Revenue, who is posted at its own records room, to peruse through its own files is an affront to this autonomy. But does the board think that it is so? One wishes to believe that it does. But its actions or lack thereof give the opposite impression.

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Here is a primer on what happened: It was more than five years ago that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, said to be incensed over the state of affairs at the Wakf Board, ordered the sealing of the records room. Cops and top revenue officials swooped down at night at the scene and did the CM’s bidding. The then Chairman Mohammed Saleem meekly complied. In fact, it is believed that he supported the CM’s decision.

Saleem is now Chairman of another body under the umbrella of the Minorities Welfare Department housed in the same building – the Telangana State Haj Committee. Over the past five years, the only change is the seat that he occupies.

The lackadaisical attitude that of taking control of the records room, is two-fold. Firstly, the unwillingness of the Chairman to stand up for the autonomous board; secondly, the board over the past several years has not had a full-time Chief Executive Officer.

This particular problem at the Wakf Board has been endemic, irrespective of the political dispensation of the time. Meaning successive governments, previously Congress and now Telangana Rashtra Samithi, have not been proactive to protect wakf or the interests of the State Wakf Board.

Here is why: It was in October 2008 that the Ninth Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakf was released and tabled in the Rajya Sabha. A cursory reading shows that the same problems continue to plague the State Wakf Board 14 years later.

“When the Committee visited Andhra Pradesh, it was surprised to note that in the AP Wakf Board, which is one of the biggest boards of the country, the CEO held an additional charge. Further, the State Government has failed to post a regular CEO and an Administrator for the functioning of the Board in the absence of the duly constituted board,” the report reads.

There was no officer posted as a full-time CEO in 2008. Fourteen years later, in the state of Telangana, the Wakf Board has no officer posted as a full-time CEO.

It further noted that “The Government cannot expect the Board to function and to protect the Wakf properties with inadequate staff and without a full-time CEO and the Administrator.” This bears a striking similarity with what is (not) happening at the Wakf Board.

As the Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change the more they stay the same.

So, is the Telangana State Wakf Board planning the fifth anniversary of the sealing of the records room?

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