GUJRAT: The Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) has sacked 21 employees working at various Arazi Record Centres (ARCs) across Punjab on charges of observing strike, staging sit-ins, remaining absent from duty for two weeks (during the strike) and forced closure of the centres.

PLRA acting director general Malik Sajjad Khan issued the order on Friday. Officials said the strike had caused a loss of Rs 1200 million to the national exchequer and the PLRA in the heads of mutation fee, stamp duty, registration fee and other applicable taxes.

At least eight service center heads and 13 service center officials are among those shown the door. Sources say proceedings against some other officials are also underway.

The Arazi Record Centers Union said the termination was in sheer violation of the orders by the Lahore High Court wherein the concerned law officer had stated before the court of Mr Justice Jawad Hassan on Nov 25 last that the PLRA employees had complied with the Nov 22 court order by calling off the strike. It said the authorities had committed not to take any coercive measure against employees who were then asked to file replies to the show-cause notices issued to them earlier.

The union said PA Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had also asked the PLRA authorities to withdraw all the show-cause notices and other punitive proceedings against the field staff during the two rounds of talks between the protesting staff and PLRA hierarchy to resolve the issues but the acting DG did not give any weight to the LHC’s proceedings and the speaker’s directions.

Condemning the action against the field staff, the association has announced suspension of services at all the ARCs across the province to lodge a strong protest against what it termed the dictatorial measure which would be resisted at every forum. Acting DG Malik Sajjad told Dawn by phone that he was unaware of any statement by the law officer before the LHC nor he had received any such court order of not taking action against those employees who had already been served show- cause notices by the PLRA. He said the DG’s lawyer had not attended the court proceedings on Nov 25.

Similarly, he said the speaker had also not issued any order of withdrawing the show-cause notices as the protesting staff did not call off the strike despite being asked by the PA speaker. He said actually the PLRA authorities had assured the protesting staff of expeditiously working on the implementation of their demands of salary increase, service structure and job regularisation.

He said that the PLRA board of directors had already forwarded a proposal for increase in the pay of the employees who were hired on a contract basis three years ago when the PLRA came into being as the matter of salaries was now with the finance department for necessary approval since an additional sum of Rs 200 million was required annually to foot the salary bill.PLRA DG Hafiz Shaukat Ali is on a 15-day ex-Pakistan leave to perform Umra and is expected to return next week.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2019