Surprises will never cease to happen. While it was a sabbatical for all government offices on Sunday, the Wakf Board office begged to differ.

Right from the chairman down to the peon, everyone turned up on Sunday. It was business as usual with 72 out of 87 employees putting in work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You might think it was some sort of novel protest but the Wakf Board decided to skip the weekly off to clear all its pending files. Thousands of files have been gathering dust in its for want of staff. The present workforce is way below the sanctioned strength. Vacancies arising due to retirement and death of staff over the years have remained unfilled. Umpteen representations to the government in this regard have drawn a blank.

Therefore, the Board resolved to do what best it could with the existing staff. “Working on Sundays is only a temporary phase till all the files are cleared,” says Syed Ghulam Afzal Biabani, chairman, Wakf Board.

The pending files are not attended to during the week on account of other works and arrival of visitors. While other offices in the Haj House wore a deserted look, the Wakf Board offices situated on three floors of the building were abuzz with activity.

Mr. Biabani kept making rounds of various sections to know first-hand the work being done. “I have set a target of 300 files to be cleared today,” he remarked.

Staff working on Sundays would be eligible to take a compensatory off on any other day or get holiday payment. The pending files would require at least three months to be cleared, it is said.

The staff crunch has really incapacitated the Wakf Board so much that it is unable to protect its vast and costly properties. As per the first wakf survey done in 1965, there are 37,470 wakf institutions and 1,45,511 acres of land. Of this nearly 80,000 acres is under encroachment.

Each day the figures increase as more properties are donated by devout Muslims. But, the beleaguered Board has just one surveyor and three law officers for the entire State.

In Hyderabad alone, there are 1,500 wakf tenants and the Board has just two persons to collect rent. The situation in the districts is even worse.

A lone inspector in each district is responsible for collecting rent, attending court cases, issuing notices to encroachers and protecting the wakf property, which is quite seemingly an impossible task.