In its bid to take over Delhi Wakf Board, the Delhi government has hampered the functioning of the board and has hurt thousands of imams of mosques, caretakers of shrines, orphans, widows and other poor people depending on salaries and financial aids provided by the board. Even the renewal of rent agreements of Wakf properties, which are being used by tenants for a meagre amount of Rs 50-Rs 100 a month, has been put on hold.
On 10 October, the Delhi government notified the supersession of the board, thus transferring all its powers and duties to the Revenue Secretary. Following this, the chairperson of the board, Rana Parveen Siddiqi, stopped going to office and petitioned the Delhi High Court against the government notification.
As the board remains headless and the Revenue Secretary of the Delhi government cannot exercise its powers unless the court decides on Siddiqi’s petition, files regarding the release of salaries to imams, shrines’ (dargahs’) caretakers and financial aid to widows, unmarried girls, and orphans, remain uncleared, according to board officials.
“Such files had remained stuck for over six months last year when Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed, former chairman of the board, had quit and the board was headless. But when Rana Siddiqi took charge in January this year, she had cleared all files. But after the Delhi government notification, files of October have not been cleared and there seems no possibility of even November files getting cleared,” said Arif, a senior clerk in the board.
Arif said that around 800 imams and caretakers of dargahs get regular salaries from the board ranging from Rs 1,000-Rs 3,300 a month. “Besides, thousands of Muslim unmarried girls, orphans and widows are given monthly financial aids ranging from Rs 400 to Rs 2,200,” said Arif.
He added that the board generates its income via rents collected from its properties scattered all over the capital city.
He also said that the current chairperson was to revise the rents of some Wakf properties from Rs 50-100 to over Rs 10,000 a month to help enhance the board’s earning. “But the Delhi government move has prevented this also,” he said. Delhi government in its order has cited Section 99 of Waqf Act, 1995, which provides for the stripping of the waqf board’s powers if there is prima facie evidence of financial irregularity, misconduct or violations according to the provisions of the Waqf Act.
But the Delhi government seems not to have conducted any investigation into “financial irregularities” in the board and neither the government conveyed its concerns to the existing chairperson before stripping her of her powers.
“This is actually the basis of my petition in the court that without any evidence of corruption how can the state government dissolve the existing board? Plus, when I was elected on 20 January as the chairperson of the board, the Arvind Kejriwal government didn’t notify it as is required. Even that matter is in court. In addition, before that case is settled, the government has come up with this notification. This is contempt of court,” Siddiqi told The Sunday Guardian.
Siddiqi also alleges that the Wakf Act demands a Muslim to be the in charge of all wakf properties but the Delhi government has made Revenue Secretary A. Ambarasu, a Hindu, the incharge. “Is there no Muslim official working for the Delhi government who could be trusted to take care of wakf properties which are specifically for charitable work to be conducted among the community?” she said.
This correspondent asked the offices of the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Revenue Secretary A. Amabarasu about their responses to allegations made by Siddiqi and why the Delhi government decided to supersede the board, but none of them replied until the filing of this report.
Meanwhile, a Muslim MLA of the Aam Aadmi Party told The Sunday Guardian that the move is to constitute a new board where new members will be appointed by AAP. “Actually, this has been the convention in all state wakf boards in India where the ruling party recommends its own people to be members of the board. We hope our members will be better than previous ones,” he said.