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Joint Parliamentary Committee unhappy with the state of waqf property in Andhra Pradesh

By Mohammed Siddique, TwoCircles.net,

Hyderabad : The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has the biggest tract of waqf land in the entire country but most of it is under illegal occupation, a Joint Parliamentary Committee found.

The Parliamentary committee comprising of the MPs from all the parties, constituted to examining the functioning of the waqf boards of all the state, has concluded that of the 141000 aces of waqf land, worth hundreds of thousands of crores, nearly 81000 acres of land was under encroachment. The committee, which concluded its three day long visit to Hyderabad today, has also come across at least two cases where in government it self had encroached thousands of acres of prime waqf land in Hyderabad city and allotted it to different private sector companies.

K Rahman Khan, who is heading the committee, told a press conference that the committee was also unhappy with the state of affairs in the Andhra Pradesh Waqf Bord. During its interaction with the state Chief Secretary K Ramakant Reddy and other senior officials committee pointed out that by not having an elected Waqf Board for the last four years, the state was violating the Parliamentary act, 1995. “We have asked them to put in place an elected Waqf Board in place as early as possible”, Khan said.

The committee found that the state had a total of 35703 waqf institutions and there number was likely to go up once the current survey of the properties is completed. The committee was also unhappy with the slow pace of the survey, which was started in 2001 but till now only 8 of the 23 districts were covered.

The allotment of prime Waqf land in the outskirts of Hyderabad by the state government to several major corporations also came in to sharp focus during the visit by the committee as several delegations and public representatives lodged their protests over the issue.

The committee visited Manikonda Jagir village where the Waqb Board claims to have 1600 acres of Waqf land. The committee found that out of this, 829.35 acres of land was allotted by the state government to various corporations. It includes 100 acres of land to Lanco Hills township and remaining land to the companies like Polaris, Infosys, Microsoft, Boulder Hills Township, MR Hills, Indian School of Business, Urdu University and others.

Rahman Khan said that the title dispute over this land between the revenue department and the waqf board was before the Waqf Tribunal. The Joint Parliamentary Committee also visited the Dargah Hazrat Baba Sharfuddin at Pahadi Shareef where a dispute is raging over 2131 acres of land under survey No. 99/1 between the state government and the Waqf Board. “The records are being examined and the matter will be sorted out soon”, he said.

The committee which noted that the Waqf Board officials were not able to assert themselves before the officials of Revenue and other departments. “If the board has been there with a regular CEO and if the board functioned properly, the waqf properties in AP can be developed”, Rahman Khan said adding that Board with elected members will be able to assert itself and discharge its duties effectively.

He however expressed satisfaction over the orders of the state government constituting a reconciliatory body comprising of the revenue and waqf officials to reconcile their records and resolve the dispute. The government has also constituted a task force at the district level comprising of the officials of revenue, waqf board and the police for the protection of the properties, he said.

“These two orders have not been implemented properly. We have directed that the government should reiterate these orders and we have impressed upon the respective collectors of districts to hold these meeting and reconcile the properties”, Rahman Khan said.

The committee also conveyed its displeasure to the state government over the slow progress of the survey of the waqf properties in the state. In seven years they have covered only 8 of the 23 districts, he said.

“The Chief Secretary has understood the seriousness of the issue and has assured this committee that he will be holding periodical meetings. He has constituted a dispute resolution mechanism with senior officials of various departments to sit together and resolve the dispute instead of fighting in the courts”, he said adding that the Chief Secretary has been warned that he will be hauled up for breach of privilege if he does not keep his promises.

The committee whose term will end on December 31, 2008 will submit its report to both the Houses of Parliament.