Shopkeeper tenants at the Madina market at Pathergatti next to Charminar are a confused lot as far as paying rent is concerned. The responsibility for collecting rent rests with the Telangana State Wakf Board (TSWB) but the rent from the property is still being collected by the Mecca Madina Alladin Wakf (MMAW), a trust. The trust had been collecting money from tenants from the time the properties were built, up until 2016, when the court intervened.
However, most of the 600-700 odd tenants at the two properties, the Nabi Khana Moulvi Akbar complex and the Mecca Madina Wakf building, still pay rent to the trust. While some of the tenants pay rent to either TSWB or MMAW, a few pay rent to both.
Karim who has been a tenant for over 40 years at the market is one such shopkeeper who pays rent to both, TSWB and MMAW. “Why to displease both? If the control of the property changes hands tomorrow, it's better to be on the safe side.” Karim is able to afford paying rent to both entities due to the low amounts.
A few others like S Aleem have stopped paying rent altogether, “I will pay rent when the issue has been resolved.”
The tussle between the two Wakf boards dates back several decades.
The two buildings in question were built by Nawab Ali Nawaz Jung Bahadur who was the chief engineer during the Nizam’s rule in Hyderabad.
The orders for construction of the buildings were issued in 1944 by the then Nizam. The purpose of the buildings was to send part of the rents collected for the poor in Madina, Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Nawar Jung was the muthawalli (trustee of a religious building) of these properties. However, after his death in 1954, the position of the muthawalli fell vacant. The Wakf Board too then did not pay attention to the matter.
But in a 1989 gazette notification, the MMWT was named custodian of the said properties but without the sanction of the TSWB or the Central Wakf Board (CWB).Both, the Telangana Department of Minorities Welfare and the CWB had in the past sent memos to the TSWB to take legal and criminal action against the trust in 2015 but action was taken only in 2016.
The MMWT is presently headed by Habeeb Alladin, who is the self-appointed muthawalli. The TSWB had initiated criminal proceedings against him in 2016 and then again in 2018, the cases are still ongoing. Habeeb Alladin could not be reached for comment.
Shahnawaz Qasim, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TSWB is optimistic that the issue will be resolved in five years. “Some of the tenants are approaching us but if all of them approach, there will be no more litigation and we will be able to move forward. The trust is misleading the tenants, but they will slowly realise that they have to come to us. At present, the rent collection from these two properties are next to nothing.”
The official is of the view that the tenants don’t want the property to be managed by the TSWB as the rents are really low under the MMAW. “The main issue is that the tenants don't want to come to us. The rents are as low as Rs 100 and Rs 200 for a prime property and it’s the community that loses from this arrangement. These rates have to be revised to current market and government rates,” the TSWB CEO added.
Some of the tenants still pay rent to the MMWT as they have maintained the rent at very low levels. The rent for most the shops at the two properties range anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 4,000.
M Rahmath Ali Zafar, president of the Mecca Madina Alladin Wakf shopkeepers Association is ready to pay rent to the TSWB but is afraid that if the rents are collected as per market rates, many of the tenants will be unable to afford those rates. “If you set the standard of Banjara Hills for this locality, how will we pay rent? The people who sell goods here are poor, the people who buy here are also poor. The TSWB officials do not know how to run the board, one day they say the rent will be 500% more than what we pay now and another day they say the rent will be double than what we pay. Both these ideas of theirs have been shot down in court in the past,” he says.
The TSWB has been sending notices repeatedly to the tenants, the defaulters will finally have to answer to the Wakf tribunal. Zafar knows this and says, “Let the tribunal and the High Court decide rent rates, then we will pay.”
Another official with the TSWB on condition of anonymity said, “At every stage, there is litigation. Earlier, our own department officials were not ready to take the bull by the horns. Now we are ready to, and are sending legal notices. We don’t want to harm the community but the present way of doing this is harming the development of the Old City. The people within the Wakf earlier are the reason for the situation to have gone this bad, the TSWB has only itself to blame. Can you believe that for a department that has properties and many responsibilities under it, there are only 115 class four employees and just 60 officers including clerks for the whole state?”
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