Of a total 34,237 properties belonging to the ‘toothless’ Punjab Wakf Board in the state, over 15,000 are under the illegal possession of either private persons or the different wings of the Centre and state governments, including Army, Air Force, Post Office and Power Generation.More to concern, rather than performing its duty to curb the menace, the state police itself are accused of the same crime, according to the board officials.
Punjab Police’s training centre, Jahan Khelan in Hoshiarpur district is also partially located on an ‘illegally’ possessed land of Roza, a property that otherwise belonging to the Punjab Wakf Board, as learnt. Further, the DSP office of Bassi Pathana is located over the land belonging to ‘Yateem Khana’.
Indian Armed forces are also not exception, if the encroachment is concerned. Three properties (graveyards) in Ferozepur are under the possession of Army, nine properties (graveyards and mosques) in Pathankot are under the illegal possession of Military. And above all, Air Force station Halwara in Ludhiana district is also reportedly possessing two illegally possessed properties of the Wakf Board.There are a total of 636 private colonies across the state developed illegally upon the sites originally belonging to the board. Apart from this, numerous grain markets, dispensaries and veterinary hospitals are also constructed upon the encroached properties.
Not only the private persons or the government wings, politicians in the state have also become so fearless that at Islamabad area near Durga Gali in Amritsar, the Congress has even opened its party office over the Punjab Wakf Board’s land.According to the state-wide detail collected by the field staff of the board, there are 10,864 properties of the board are under the illegal possession of private persons. What to accuse the private encroachers, the Centre and state governments are also alleged of illegally possessing 26 and 235 properties, respectively.
Further, there are 35 properties of the board, which are under the alleged encroachment of semi government offices, 11 are under the illegal possession of Municipalities and 198 under the illegal custody of Gram Panchayats, across the state.Further, the data also have the mention of 1,391 Gurdwaras, 144 temples and one church erected over the properties belonging to the Punjab Wakf Board. Besides there are five chunks of land which are under the possession of different Improvement Trusts in the state.
Surprisingly, finding the board and its officials “lacking the zeal to curb the irregularity” there are 70 properties now identified as to be sold illegally by the custodians and more to shock, three properties have been detected to be illegally sold by Tehsildars (revenue officers) themselves.Besides the high number of properties under the illegal possession, there are nearly 1,300 others which are stuck into litigations.
Going by the details it has been learnt that in Hoshiarpur district the centre government is accused of running a Post Office at Nakodar and Panj Dhera over a land of Takiya and Graveyard. Further, there are a large number of schools in Punjab being run under the state government are also learnt to be illegally situated over the board’s land. I
n Amritsar, there was a ‘Yateem Khana’ (Orphanage) belonging to the board but it was gradually encroached upon by the state government. At Shah Salimpur village under Jalandhar circle a PWD guest house is located on graveyard.The circle wise detail of the board reveals that the maximum encroachments by private people were made in its Amritsar circle (1,456), followed by the Dasuya-Mukerian circle (1,140) and Gurdaspur (894).
In the classification, it is declared that maximum properties under the Central government’s illegal possession are also in Amritsar (10), followed by Dasuya-Mukerian (seven).The state government has also allegedly encroached upon the maximum properties in Amritsar (58), followed by Hoshiarpur and Dasuya-Mukerian circles (16 each). Further, in Sangrur circle there are 12 properties in the illegal possession of the state government.
Then the highest number of Gurdwaras located on the Wakf board’s lands, actually converted from Muslim religious places, also points at Amritsar with the figure standing at 187. Then, Zira circle and Ferozepur circles of the board also have big number of such controversial religious properties.It has also been learnt that there are a number of government establishments, including the Circuit houses, Mini-secretariats and Police Lines, which are situated on the land acquired from the board but in lieu of that the board treasury could hardly get anything.
According to the report, there is one property Wakf Haji Ratan in Bathinda which is so huge that it has been encroached upon by more than 1,400 persons.The problem is too huge that Wakf board has been contesting hundreds of cases in the judicial courts for decades but most of the cases are still pending in lower courts as well as the High Court.
Duped board now launches efforts
The department is much disturbed over the fact that more than half of its total properties are either illegally possessed or trapped into different litigations. To get rid of this long-lasting problem, the Punjab Wakf Board is now working upon a module to comprise the whole data at first. The data is being collected and doubly verified by the Estate Officers in respective areas, with also specifying the current status. In the second stage, the identified properties are scheduled to be connected with Google Earth, containing the latitude and longitude details of each of them. It is also learnt that the board was earlier suffering from the menace of poor upkeep of record of which numerous persons derive the benefit but now the board, under the Centre’s project, is getting the whole record restored and laminated.
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