LAHORE: Some 6,000 staffers of the defunct union councils (UCs) have again taken over the registration record of births, deaths, marriages, divorces and verification from the octroi clerks, naib qasids (peons) posted there since long.
The decision, according to an official report, to post the UCs staffers in 2,600 field offices (previously UC offices) across Punjab was taken after the department handed over the administrative control of field offices to its Directorate General of Local Government under the Punjab Local Government Registration of Births and Deaths Rules 2021 of May 31 — made in the light of Punjab Local Government Act, 2019, wherein administrative control of registration offices and the civil registration of vital statistics (CRVS) was entrusted to the Local Government DG and its field officers.
The report states that the deficiency of trained and qualified staff in the field offices has been covered by posting some 6,000 defunct UCs officials who had been receiving salaries without work since the abolition of the UCs over a year back.
The CRVS has been the mandate of the Local Government & Community Department (LG&CD) in Punjab, like other parts of the country, since the 1960s when the first local government system was launched.
The report mentions that the UCs, the grassroots tier of local governments, has been a primary institution for registration of vital events both in urban and rural areas under the PLGO 1979, the PLGO 2001 and the PLGA 2013, and the staff appointed in the UCs was recruited and trained especifically for the registration of vital events.
The report recalls that under the PLGO 2001, TMAs (tehsil municipal administrations) were established and the staffers (octroi/chungi clerks etc) posted in the abolished zila councils, municipal corporations (MCs) and municipal committees, were appointed as union council (UCs) secretaries.
For being untrained, the report says, these officials badly affected the working of the UCs and the registration of vital events. Therefore, the department repatriated them back to their parent local governments, revived under PLGA 2013.
However, the repatriated staff refused to go back and remained in the UCs on the basis of court stay orders till the Lahore High Court in its April 24, 2020 verdict vacated these stay orders.
It says that under the new system (introduced under PLGA 2019), unfortunately, the cardinal institution of UCs, having specific function of registration, was not retained in its original form and the Village Panchayats (VPs) and Neighborhood Councils (NCs) were treated as the grassroots tier of the local bodies, though these were not declared full-fledged local governments, under the Punjab Village Panchayat and Neighbourhood Councils Act of 2019.
The function of the registration was assigned to the upper tier of local governments (MCs, ZCs ), instead of VPs and NCs, according to Schedules 3, 4, and 5 of original PLGA 2019.
The report says the mess started when the section 3(2) and 15 of the PLGA, 2019 were misinterpreted/misread and the UCs were succeeded by local governments in the upper-tier (MCs, LCs), instead of VPs & NCs, being the grassroots tier on November 8, 2019.
Moreover, the upper tier of local governments was dissolved and succeeding local governments were established. However, VPs and NCs could not be constituted and UCs were allowed to continue with registration work.
However, the situation aggravated when the department, in April 2020, stopped UCs from providing registration services without constituting the succeeding grassroots tier. “So the qualified and trained staff for CRVS of defunct UCs was left with no official duties and was taking salaries from the government exchequer without any official assignment since May 1 last,” the report reveals.
“The trained staff has taken over most of field offices/UCs and started performing the job of vital statistics registration. But the problem still persists in the districts of Jhang and Layyah where the previous staff is yet to handover the CRVS record to us. But this issue will be resolved soon,” Local Government & Community Development Department Director General Ms Kausar Khan told Dawn.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021