VISAKHAPATNAM:Concerned over the alarming rate of encroachment, the government has decided to delegate power to the district collectors to protect Wakf lands in the state, said special secretary for minority welfare department Mohamed Iqbal.
The government has directed the revenue department, Wakf Board and the police to take measures to evict encroachments and protect Wakf lands. All these years, the police and revenue officials were not involved in protection of Wakf lands, as they thought it was an issue related to the Muslim community alone, he added.
Chairing a meeting of Wakf inspectors from Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts here Saturday, Iqbal pointed out that large extend of land belonging to Wakf Board had been encroached as police and revenue department were not involved on protection of the assets.
Hence, the government directed the police and revenue officials to initiate immediate steps to protect the assets owned by the Wakf Board in the lines of protection of endowments lands. Criminal cases would be slapped on people who grabbed Wakf lands, he warned.
All the minority welfare department officials and Visakhapatnam district collector N Yuvaraj participated in the meeting. Later, Iqbal told mediamen that the Wakf Board was not empowered to sell its assets, but it can give its lands on lease for a period of three years.
According to the Wakf Act, there were no special powers to the Mutawallis. The Mutawallis are entitled to maintain the records and responsible to protect the assets only. If any Mutawalli commits an offense, the government would initiate disciplinary action like that in case of a state government employee, he informed.
Talking about the division of Wakf Board in the aftermath of state bifurcation, he said that the Board would be separated within a couple of weeks.
As many as 67,000 acres of Wakf lands across the state were occupied by the others. In Visakhapatnam district alone, 2,500 acres of land was encroached upon including the Devada Wakf lands, he added.