Wakf Board is always under stress shorn of finances and administrative powers. The situation can vastly improve if a civil servant is to head it. Posting of IAS/IPS officers would go a long way to put the Board back on the tracks, feels Shaikh Mohd Iqbal, Commissioner, Minorities Welfare.
The IPS officer, whose term as Board’s special officer ended the other day, has requested the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments to consider posting civil servants since there is no bar in the Wakf Act. “If necessary the Centre can amend the Act or the State governments can incorporate this provision when the Wakf rules are made,” Mr. Iqbal said.
As per Section 23 of Wakf Act, the CEO should be a Muslim and not below the rank of a deputy secretary. But in practice, officers of the rank of deputy collectors are posted and most of the time they are not even full-fledged CEOs. A lesser rank official is often a mute spectator and sometime hand in glove with the ‘undesirable illegal acts’ of the Board members. “But the presence of IAS/IPS officer will act as a deterrent. It will be difficult for the chairman and Board members to bulldoze civil servants,” Mr. Iqbal argues.
He has submitted a detailed note to the chief ministers and chief secretaries of both Telangana and A.P pointing out the problems facing the Board and the measures to set them right. “I have personally met the Chief Ministers and given the note. It is for them to act on it,” said Mr. Iqbal whose six-month term saw suspension of several erring Mutawallis.
Mr. Iqbal blames the State government for not taking active interest in the affairs of the Wakf Board. The Chief Minister never bothered to monitor the Board’s functioning fearing that it might be seen as ‘interference’ in the religious affairs by the community. “But this is a wrong presumption,” he says and adds that only proper monitoring by the State would benefit and empower Muslims.
The IPS officer points out the piquant situation of State governments getting entangled with the Wakf Boards in matters of acquisition of wakf lands and their allotment to private parties. The Lanco Hills case was a ‘classic example’. By withdrawing the case the government would earn goodwill of Muslims and also help improve the Board’s finances. “In future the State government should desist from filing cases against Wakf Board which is its own department,” Mr. Iqbal said.