GUJRAT: The local field officials of Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) working at different Arazi Record Centres (ARCs) have demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure security of their jobs by giving them a service structure and regularisation of their service as they had been working hard for the digitisation of land record.

The premier, while addressing the launching ceremony of the cadastral map of Islamabad last Wednesday, had said the digitisation of land record would bring transparency in transfer of properties. He had also said that because of the modern system the citizens would be able to check the status of their properties online.

The cadastral mapping project has been introduced to modernise the old patwar system that would involve complex and cumbersome process of land transfer and manual documentation.

A number of officials working at various ARCs in the region talking to Dawn welcomed the premier’s remarks about expanding the operations of digitisation, but expressed their apprehensions with regard to their career prospects and job security under the the PTI government in Punjab.

They regretted that despite prime minister’s vision to expand land record digitisation to the whole country, the provincial government had put the future of hundreds of well-educated and trained PLRA employees at stake by not approving their service structure and denying them job regularisation.

They alleged that the powerful civil bureaucracy in Punjab, particularly the senior hierarchy of the Board of Revenue (BoR), had been working on a plan to replace the ARCs staff with patwaris who did not have any know how of operating the digital record system.

A senior official at an ARC alleged that a number of old patwaris who had been assigned the duty to run the recently-launched Dehi Markaz-i-Maal (DMM) centres at Qanoongoi-level, had hired the services of computer literate private staff to run these centres that contradicted the lofty claims by the BoR about appointing computer savvy patwaris in the field.

He also alleged that incompetent candidates had been recruited as patwaris after receiving heavy bribes, who did not have the required typing speed to perform their job, to replace the qualified Service Centre Officials (SCOs). In this connection, he referred to reports of alleged corruption in the recruitment process in various tehsils of Punjab, including Nankana Sahib, where power of an assistant commissioner were withdrawn over such charges.

He said the BS-17 assistant directors of land record (ADLRs), BS-16 land record officers (LROs) and SCOs for ARCs had been recruited by the Punjab Public Service Commission after conducting written tests and interviews, but they were not being regularised.

The said the PLRA officials who had expertise in computer as well as law and had been working for the last 10 years, should have been posted at DMMs for better results.

He said around two dozen ACR officials had been dismissed from service in 2019 for staging protests against the PLRA over denial of service structure and job regularisation etc. He regretted that these employees were not reinstated, ruining their career.

A senior official said the PLRA had computerised 90pc of the land record in Punjab that resulted in an increase in the revenue under only mutation fees head from Rs3.5billion to Rs22 billion this year.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2021

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