GUJRAT: The Punjab government is all set to revive the patwar system at the revenue estate level from March 3 for which two qanoongo areas in each of the nine divisions of the province have been selected where `computer-literate’ patwaris will provide services currently being extended by the Arazi Record Centers (ARCs) at tehsil level.

The divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners have been issued fresh directions by the Board of Revenue (BoR) to identify government buildings and make necessary arrangements for the provision of essential equipment, including laptops, printers, scanners and internet facilities for the purpose.

A letter issued to the divisional commissioners by the BoR on Tuesday said the aforementioned services at the revenue estates of the selected qanoongos must be ensured by March 3, whereas the BoR and Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) will subsequently provide requisite paraphernalia/equipment under a development scheme.

The BoR letter says teams from the board will visit these centres to observe their functioning.

Last month, the BoR had directed the commissioners to select at least two qanoongo areas in as many tehsils of their respective divisions for launching computerised services at revenue estate level where patwaris will offer the services instead of the service center officials (SCOs), also known as digital patwaris who have been delivering the services at the ARC level.

The Punjab government has also decided to reopen the patwar schools at the divisional level whereas the lone patwar school in Lahore has been lying dysfunctional for the last almost 15 years. Initially, a new patwar school will be launched in a selected division as a pilot project which will be extended to every division where revised patwar courses, including computer training, will also be given.

On an experimental basis, the authorities have decided to utilise the existing lot of patwaris who are already computer literate and well educated and later on new recruitment may also be made, says an official privy to these developments.

Punjab Revenue Minister Malik Anwar told Dawn that it was not the revival of old era of patwaris as the existing system of ARCs and PLRA was actually being upgraded. He said the impression that Punjab was reverting to the manual land record system was totally wrong.

“We are going to introduce reforms in the existing system of land record services by involving computer literate and well-educated patwaris who have better understanding of the revenue-related matters as well as technicalities of the field unlike the SCOs sitting at the ARCs who did not have any knowledge of the field work.

The SCOs, it may be added, were never given six-month training promised in their service structure.

The minister said though the people were not happy with the old manual system of land record and working of patwaris, they had more complaints against this new digital system regarding the service delivery as earlier such services had been available at the village level which had now been shifted to the tehsil level where getting token after a wait of hours and even days was a daunting task for any land owner.

“That is why the PTI government has established at least 115 new ARCs at qanoongo level in various parts of Punjab which will be available at the revenue estate level. Preparations for launching the services initially at some 18 selected qanoongo areas in nine divisions are being made to overcome the shortcomings of the existing system,” said the minister and categorically denied that the government was going to adopt the old manual record system in the land revenue department and said that the PTI had been voted to power against the traditional patwar culture.

Asked whether the government believed the PLRA could not earn as much revenue as being earlier collected by the manual system by the patwaris, the minister said there was no issue of missing the target of revenue collection as BoR had achieved around 104 per cent of its set target of revenue collection in the last fiscal year. “There is no such issue. The launching of computerised services at the revenue estate level means services at the doorstep.”

He said the government had recently held successful negotiations with the World Bank for funding the project of computerisation of the urban land record.

On the other hand, the PLRA field staff term the fresh move of service delivery of computerised land record at revenue estate level through patwaris an effort of the bureaucracy aimed at the revival of the corrupt patwar system to exploit the situation for their vested interest for which the patwari are being inducted silently through a backdoor.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020