Information panel faults Waqf Board

Coming down heavily on the Telangana State Waqf Board (TSWB), the Telangana State information Commission directed the Muslim endowments panel to issue specific guidelines so as to curb the menace of charging exorbitant fee for burials. The Commission also directed TSWB Chief Executive Officer look into the issue personally. The Commission was dealing with an appeal filed by city-based activist Kareem Ansari, who is associated with, a portal which assists applicants in filing RTI queries. Mr Ansari, in a list of five questions, had also sought information on the Daira Mir Momin, a graveyard in Sultan Shahi in old city. The information requested included whether a managing committee of the graveyard has been constituted. In another query, the activist reiterated that TSWB Chairman Mohammed Saleem had directed caretakers of graveyards to provide grave space free of charge even as he sought an order copy. During the hearing, State Information Commissioner Mohd Ameer noted the reply of the TSWB Public Information Officer indicated that no written order in connection with providing free burial spaces exists. TSWB Chairman Mohammed Saleem’s oral instructions are available on social media, he noted. It opined that there is ‘no proper supervision by Waqf officials in all Muslim graveyards in the State and the local people are taking advantage of the situation to collect huge amounts’ for burials. Describing the situation as ‘alarming’ the Commission observed that there is merit in Mr Ansari’s allegation of large sums being charged for burial. “The commission is of the view that there must be specific guidelines/procedure laid down by the Government or by the Chief Executive Officer, Waqf Board fixing a nominal charges for allotting the graves (sic),” an excerpt reads. Another excerpt states that there is a need to streamline the system, and take action to stop exorbitant amounts been charged for burials. “Since the welfare of general public and interest of the government involved, the CEO, Waqf Board is also directed to look into the whole matter personally and ensure proper action in the matter and apprise the same to the Commission at the earliest, (sic)” the order reads. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr Ansari said that while oral instructions free burials are important, they cannot be enforced as a board resolution or guidelines are required to enforce such initiatives. “They lack of a written order, or resolution makes free burials next to impossible. Every decision has a written order. The TSWB must ensure that this is looked into,” he said.