LAHORE: The Punjab government has promised to allot around 398,400 acres of land to lumberdars (village headmen) across the province to mobilise them for various official tasks, ranging from tax collection to the administration of polio vaccine.
The promise was made at a meeting of the Punjab Lumberdar Association held under the chairmanship of provincial Agriculture Minister Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi at the Civil Secretariat here on Tuesday.
Provincial Minister for Colonies Khayal Ahmad Kastro, MPA Adil Pervaiz Gujjar and Board of Revenue Senior Member Babar Hayat Tarar were also present.
There are 38,700 lumberdars, including 2,800 women, in the province. Of them, only 5,500 have been allotted state land.
During the meeting, Mr Gardezi, who is also the president of the association, hoped the remaining lumberdars would be allotted land, 12 acres each, within three months, as hundreds of thousands of acres of state land had been retrieved from grabbers during the last three years. He directed the authorities concerned to issue the allotment orders.
As an additional incentive, he said, permission could also be granted for abolishing the fee for an honorary licence of a 12-bore gun for each lumberdar for security.
About new recruitments on the post, the minister said 50 numbers for inheritance and another 50 for qualification could be fixed. He said the effective role of lumberdars in assisting the government and the public had been realised and the government was working to institutionalise this role.
“It is very important to activate the lumberdars for the transfer and distribution of inherited land. Their services may also be hired for coronavirus and polio vaccination, maintaining peace in villages during Muharram, recovery of digital abiyana (water charges), running the gardawari system effectively and the collection of agriculture tax,” the minister was quoted as telling the meeting participants.
A former official of the Board of Revenue told Dawn on the condition of anonymity that three policies had been introduced regarding allotment of land to lumberdars: under one – an animal breeding scheme – a lumberdar was empowered to even sell out the allotted land, while under another he could be allotted land at any other location if it was not available in his/her own village.
He said the policy was misused as, in some cases, land was allotted over a 100 kilometres away from the village that he/she was the head of.
As per his experience in the revenue department, the former official suggested that lumberdars be offered honoraria instead of land as any allotment away from their own village could divert their attention to that other area.
Meanwhile, Minister Kastro was quoted as informing the meeting that hurdles in the transfer of powers at the lower level were being removed. He announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan would meet the lumberdars shortly and resolve their problems.
Mr Tarar said the government was digitalising the tax collection system with the help of latest technology as fard and transfer of land record and crime data would be made available on a dashboard.
He said at least 5,000 more patwaris would be recruited in the provincial revenue department.
Lumberdar Association Senior Vice President Chaudhry Mudassir Kamboh, and vice presidents of Lahore, Multan, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal and Dera Ghazi Khan were also present in the meeting.
Published in Dawn, EOS, June 16th, 2021