PUNJAB PUNCH: The Power of Patwari

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Shafaqna Pakistan: A patwari is one of the most resourceful persons in any area or town despite having the lowest grade in official ranking. One can’t help but wonder why.

So, the reason for his immense power lies in the fact that he is responsible for land records and related issues. On the other hand, a patwari is also responsible for many social, political and administrative tasks, including the record-keeping of weather and crop harvest, reporting village crimes and updating voters’ registers.

A patwari controls seventeen registers having records like Register Haqdaraan Zamindar, Register of Khasra Gurdawri, Field Book, Register Intiqalat and many others. So, any person in need of any such record related to his land needs to see a patwari.

The most commonly required land-related document is a certificate of possession, aka fard, which only a patwari is authorised to issue. All information is noted manually by the patwaris in registers and thus that makes his pen and the patwari himself an important entity.

Patwari exercises a larger than life influence in the community and is powerful and dominant because with his pen he can change, alter or temper whatever and whenever he wants thus the people have to pamper the patwari and be sweet to him.

It was the British raj when this patwari system emerged and till today, we all are stuck in the shackles of patwari system what a blessing the British raj bestowed upon us! The British would surely be knowing what they were doing with the future of this land.

According to many analysts Patwari is considered to be the main perpetrator for the fiasco of 1973 land reforms. It was the Patwari system which kept the poor farmers unaware of the reforms and joined hands with the feudal lords who managed to flop the reforms.

So now let us come over to the patwaris of Punjab. Did you know that there are almost 6,934 of them working in the province, maintaining land records of 55 million landowners? This simple statistic is sufficient enough to make you understand the power of a patwari.

Somewhere in 1999, the first effort was made by the Government to computerize the land record of district Kasur and in 2001 a pilot project in Lahore was started to computerize the land records. On the basis of lessons learnt, a similar type of two more pilots projects were initiated in Rahim Yar Khan and Gujrat but unfortunately these pilot projects failed. Then in 2006 studies were conducted to reform the old manual land record management system into the moderniSation of land revenue record system with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.

The Punjab government through Board of Revenue (BOR) and Punjab Information and Technology Board (PITB) closely remained in touch with World Bank for this task. The government of Pakistan and World Bank signed an agreement in 2007 for the Project Land Record Management and Information system (LRMIS) in Punjab. The main objectives were to provide access to the land record at lower transaction cost, to enhance the tenure security of land right holders and to improve the transparency in transaction of land.

Initially, LRMIS was designed to provide services in 18 districts of Punjab. Later, the scope of the project enhanced to all 36 districts. World Bank extended its support and a Project Management Unit (PMU) was established in 2007 for computerization of land record and to oversee the overall interventions.

After the completion of the Project LRMIS, Government of Punjab formulated the Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA). As soon as the people got to know about the establishment of this authority there was a hope to get rid of the strong Patwari shackles. Unfortunately, PLRA could also not meet the hopes of the masses and once again the power of Patwari won.

Arazi Record Centers (ARC) were established by PLRA in all districts of Punjab with the major contribution of funding of the World Bank. ARC is providing their services in term of issuance of fard and registration of land mutation to the local inhabitants. During the implementation stage, five private firms were hired to scan the manual register available in District record room.

Record of Sharjah-e-Nasab, Register Haqdaran-e-Zamin, Register Gardawari, Register Tagayarat-e-Kasht, Register Intiqaalat and Field Book were digitized but PLRA failed to digitize other important components such as Indexes, Roznamcha Partaal Roznamcha Waqaati, Roznamcha Hidayati, Roznamcha Karguzari, and Village Book.

According to PLRA in just five years, the project scanned 10 million pages of old records, digitized all land records for over 55 million landowners across the province of Punjab, and made digitalized land title information. Issuance of a fard (document) and registration of land mutation fall exclusively within the purview of the LRMIS.

According to various reports the customers who availed the services of mutation they were not satisfied with time management, they said that two or three days were required for mutation and in case of any mistake in a record, they face a lot of troubles and sometimes weeks were required for correction of that mistake. Moreover, to verify the family trees and demarcation & identification of land they have to visit the Patwari office.

Now comes another interesting fact that the system of PLRA still depends on Patwaris for inheritance mutation, correction of names, land demarcation and rectification of errors. So what did PLRA do to eliminate or reduce the British gifted Patwar system?

In my opinion, Patwaris are so deeply rooted that PLRA would never be able to overcome their penetration in the society and the systems made by Patwari would need a lifetime to be improved. The government took all such initiatives and spend huge amounts to eradicate the Patwar culture from Punjab but I think it is in vain. If the government needs to materialize its plans then professionals and dedicated personal along with the trustworthy staff is needed. Otherwise, PLRA would be another failure and the Patwar culture will be as powerful as it has always been.