A sordid tale of encroachments and inaction

3 months ago 27

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The Telangana State Waqf Board (TSWB) is beset with a host of problems — from over three-quarters of endowed land parcels being encroached in the State, to a stagnant income through rentals and few institution filing annual returns, and from a records section which has been sealed for nearly four years to a cloud of doubt looming large over the second waqf survey.

According to official data, over 75% of waqf land parcels in the State have been encroached upon. The first waqf survey showed there are 33,929 Muslim endowment institutions in the State. This, in terms of acreage, is over 77,538 acres, but only on paper. The ground realities are quite different, given that over 57,423 acres have been encroached upon.

Second waqf survey

The second waqf survey sought to enumerate, add institutions and their corresponding endowed properties to those recorded during the first survey. According to those in the know, the number of institutions increased from 33,929 to over 47,000, and a considerable augmentation in terms of acreage was seen. While the second waqf survey data was shared with the board in 2017, it remains to be accepted.

“The first issue is that after survey, the findings should be reconciled with waqf and revenue records. There are some technical issues which need to be addressed — whether the position on the land parcels is the same or if there are structures which have been constructed over a period of time, or whether supporting documents, such as those stating that a particular property is waqf, are available or not. A lack of TSWB staff to verify the second survey data is also a massive hindrance,” a senior official at the TSWB said, adding that as on Saturday, there was no change in the board’s position.

Stagnant rents

While it was suggested that the increase in waqf institutions could imply an increase in the board’s revenue, little has changed. The TSWB is also dealing with a longstanding problem of stagnant rents. The Macca Madina Aladdin Wakf, is a case in point. Despite being under the ‘direct management’ of the board, the Muslim endowments panel is grappling with collecting rents from those who run 500 shops endowed to the institution.

“A large number of tenants are defaulters and the rents are much lower than prevailing rates. We are not able to do much as there is a lack of cooperation. However, a case which was dealt with by the High Court could help our cause to increase rents,” a staff member said.

The said case pertains to a writ petition filed by Omer Khan, a tenant who had taken the shop on sublease from one Md Tameem, with the TSWB as a respondent. The petitioner stated that he was paying ₹3,090 per month as rent, but the board had not renewed the lease. TSWB standing counsel Abu Akram submitted that if Mr Khan agreed to increase the rent to ₹65 per square feet, the board would consider granting of lease in his favour. The HC, in an order dated March 24, 2021, granted the petitioner permission to make a fresh application offering to pay an enhanced rent of ₹65 per sqaure feet and to enclose a demand draft reflecting arrears of rent payable till the time of making the representation. The HC directed the board to consider the request of the petitioner and take an appropriate decision within four weeks of the date of the representation.

If the TSWB accepts Mr Khan’s application, the enhanced rate per square feet will take the rent for the 160 square feet shop from ₹3,090 to ₹10,400.

Lack of compliance

Another stumbling block in the board’s revenue is abysmal compliance of institutions filing annual returns. According to data obtained from the Waqf Management System of India portal, in FY 2020-2021, of the 40,788 assessable immovable properties, only six had filed returns, reflecting a compliance of 0.01%. The compliance in FY 2019-2020 stood at 0.08%.

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Fast Legal Services in Dubai

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