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Delhi Wakf Board finally set to get more staff

At present, the board has 40 employees against sanctioned strength of 64. Most of them are engaged in administrative job and there is no expert such as conservationist, archaeologist, structural safety professional, and enforcement staff to take care of ancient buildings.

delhi Updated: Aug 01, 2018 15:11 IST
Parvez Sultan
Parvez Sultan
Hindustan Times
Delhi,Delhi Wakf Board,Delhi govt
File photo of the Fatehpuri mosque in Delhi. The imam of the mosque, Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, has termed the Delhi Wakf Board’s proposal a good start, but condemned the board for its “poor functioning” and “indecisive” approach.(Sushil Kumar/ HT File )

The Delhi Wakf Board (DWB), which is the custodian of around 2,000 properties including heritage buildings such as the Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi, is finally on way to reinventing itself to save its properties from degeneration.

The board has mooted a proposal to increase its staff strength and restructuring by engaging experts to improve its functioning and for appropriate supervision of thousands of its properties.

At present, the board has 40 employees against sanctioned strength of 64. Most of them are engaged in administrative job and there is no expert such as conservationist, archaeologist, structural safety professional, and enforcement staff to take care of ancient buildings.

“The board, with 40 odd staff, has responsibility of supervising and maintenance of about 2,000 properties. Most of the officials are engaged in administrative work and also serve as field officers. They lack the expertise for complex jobs like ascertaining damage to properties or restoration of buildings of historical importance,” said a senior official of Delhi government, who is aware of the proposal initiated by the DWB.

The DWB owns 1,977 registered properties worth crores of rupees including 400 notified heritage structures. The list of DWB properties encompasses 827 mosques, about 480 graveyards, over 300 darghas and 358 other properties including baolis, residential units, schools, and shops.

Major chunk of land is located in Mehrauli, Palam, Shahdara, Najafgarh, Narela, and the Walled City area.

However, several edifices are in the process of disintegration due to lack of maintenance and widespread encroachment.

Majority of notified heritage structures under DWB’s jurisdiction are mosques and tombs in south Delhi and the Walled City area. Several of them date back to pre-Mughal period — around 500 years old.

“A majority of the board’s work is related to revenue and land, however, the DWB doesn’t have a dedicated revenue official. Some posts have been vacant for years. For proper upkeep of records and properties, DWB requires proper trained staff, hence a proposal for its restructuring and to recruit adequate number of workforce has been sent to administrative reforms department for formal approval,” said the official.

Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, an Islamic scholar, who is also an imam at Fatehpuri Masjid, termed the DWB’s proposal a good start, but condemned the board for its “poor functioning” and “indecisive” approach.

“It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The new proposal is positive beginning but the board is incapable of executing any plan. They are aware about the dilapidated state of Fatehpuri mosque yet they can’t do anything. The board is incompetent and does not arrangement for sufficient funds,” Ahmed said.

He suggested the board should also develop a mechanism for effective execution of a plan. “I read recently that the board had decided to carry out restoration of ancient buildings. Let us see what they do. They don’t have experts,” he said.

As part of its comprehensive conservation plan for notified heritage properties, the board has planned to organise workshops and orientation programmes for imams and caretakers of dargahs (shirnes) or tombs.

The first-of-its-kind initiative aims to raise awareness and sensitise occupants of historic structures and people who are custodians of religious sites and mausoleums under the board’s jurisdiction.

GC Saxena, former bureaucrat and heritage expert, said it is imperative to restructure the board and have adequate number of staff to keep its properties free from squatters.

“Shortage of staff results into encroachment. They can’t act against encroachers due to absence of enforcement staff. I suggest that the board should indentify properties which can be turned into small lodges — bed and breakfast — after conservation. This would not only create revenue but help to keep heritage intact. This concept is very popular abroad,” said Saxena, who was managing director of Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation.

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 15:11 IST