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HYDERABAD, Nov 4: The Sindhi Adabi Board has been without a chairman, board of governors and a full-time secretary since provincial minister Makhdoom Jamiluzzaman quit as its chairman in October 2011 after having failed to resolve a row between writers and employees over the appointment of the board’s secretary.

The chief minister has neither accepted nor rejected his resignation while the minister has stopped looking after the board’s affairs since he quit, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Makhdoom Talibul Maula who had also resigned as the board’s chairman in the 90s over writers’ protest.

Currently, A.D. Vighio, accountant, works as acting secretary and takes all decisions in the absence of board of governors (BoG) and committees for publication and other related matters.

The post of secretary has been a bone of contention between writers and employees who want to see their favourites at the helm of affairs. The dispute between the two groups first emerged over the appointment of noted poet Shamsherul Haidri as secretary in 1994 and many writers, among them, Noorul Huda Shah, spearheaded efforts to get him removed.

Haidri was succeeded by Aijaz Mangi, Inam Shaikh and Zawar Naqvi. They all faced the same situation and met the same fate.

Inam Shaikh said that since appointments and promotions in the board were not governed by any service rules, favouritism was rife and appointments made on the basis of political affiliations had overburdened the board’s budget. Employees were busy plundering funds and hatching conspiracies for gaining power and control over the board’s affairs, he alleged.

Experts believe a large number of board employees are redundant. Earlier, the total number of employees was 92 and 36 of them were later put in a surplus pool and absorbed in the education department but at least 20 were appointed again.

The board has a budget of Rs30 million and of it Rs20.7 million goes into salaries and other non-productive expenses, leaving a meagre amount to carry out the actual work the board is meant to do.

Hafiz Indhar, secretary of the board’s employees’ union, said that he was satisfied with the present setup as it was functioning without any interference.

But writers do not share his feelings.

They say that without any men of letters to look after matters of literature the board has failed as an institution.

It has lately been a scene of vicious wrangling for lucrative posts and failed to perform its actual duty of producing more books and serving literature.

Inayat Baloch, a member of the board, said the institution had been practically idle in the absence of chairman and BoG. In the past, the institution had rendered great services for the promotion of Sindhi language, literature, history and folklore and Sindhi society badly needed it today, he said.

Inam Shaikh said the board had ceased to exist. A person with no vision headed the literary institution without guidance of the BoG and men of letters, he said.

The employees wielded more power and they did not allow anyone to run the institution in an adequate matter. They would virtually hold it hostage whenever they felt like it, he said, adding that all actions taken by anyone were illegal if they were not approved by chairman or BoG.

But A.D. Vighio did not agree to Mr Shaikh’s standpoint. He said the board was running adequately. Seven issues of literary magazine Mehran, 18 of Gulphul and 15 of Sartyoon had been published since he had taken over charge, he said.

He added that nine new titles and 12 reprints had also been brought out and a scheme for the development of administration block, museum, auditorium and a display centre had been revised after six years.

Writers and members of civil society stress that a scholar should be appointed as secretary of the board and it should have an adequate representation of writers because the literary institution had always been headed by great men of letters like Syed Meeran Mohammad Shah, G.M. Syed, Allama Daudpoto, Pir Hussamuddin Rashidi, Makhdoom Talibul Moula, Ibrahim Joyo, Maulana Ghulam Mustafa Qasimi, Dr Nabi Bux Baloch and Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Grami.

They call for an inquiry into the board’s affairs over the past 12 years and said the institution had failed to translate the world’s classic literature into English, Urdu and Sindhi and bring online 500,000 pages of Sindhi literature as planned in 2006.

The board was founded by veteran Sindhi nationalist leader G.M. Syed in the 1940s to promote Sindhi literature when he was provincial education minister.

It was redesigned in March 1955 and has since published over 650 standard books in Sindhi, Persian, Urdu, Arabic and English.

It has a huge complex spread over 19 acres of land donated by the University of Sindh. It had state-of-the-art printing machines which were reportedly sold out at throwaway prices. The board has a book outlet at Tilak Incline in Hyderabad.

Being a government organisation, the board has undergone many changes in management and policy with changes in governments or the ruler’s mindset.

In the 50s, the board’s emblem was the figure of a bullock found on a seal unearthed from Moenjodaro.

Under the Ayub regime, it was changed to crescent, star, map of Sindh and dome of Masoom Shah. The bull was revived in Bhutto’s government only to be buried again when Zia took over. It was resurrected when Benazir Bhutto came to power and continues as such.