LAHORE: Land record automation – one of the dearest projects of the Punjab chief minister – is working on ad hoc basis as most of the officials at different land record centres (LRCs) across the province have served out their contracts.
As many as 89 assistant directors (ADLRs), the administrative heads of these centres, are functioning on expired contracts for the past one month. More than 457 service centre officials (SCOs), who are also working on term-based contracts, were sacked two days ago on the charges of illegal recruitment.
The first batch of ADLRs of BS-17 joined the Punjab Board of Revenue on March 8, 2013 for three years tenure. Their contracts were revised for one year on March 8, 2016.
Since March 8, these officers are now working without contracts. All their steps are open for appeal at any judicial forum as they currently enjoy no authority to carry on the official work, according to legal experts.
On the other hand, the moral of the officers is also suffering as their fate is hanging in the balance after four years of service.
Requesting anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media, some ADLRs told The Express Tribune that termination of hundreds of SCOs had already affected the operations at the LRCs as no replacements had been provided so far. All offices have been overburdened and many visitors are returning home without even being entertained.
Advocate Tipu Salman Makhdoom said without having any justification to function as heads of a public institution, officials could not work with peace of mind. “They even cannot access official records,” he said. “All mutations, land transactions, issuance of ‘fards’ made after April 8 are illegal and unconstitutional. They can be challenged in any court.”
Advocate Makhdoom said it was the right of every contractual employee to be regularised maximum after three years of his service. There are several judgments of the Supreme Court which establish the right of contractual employees to be regularised.
In 36 districts of Punjab, 151 LRCs are functioning. This project of the Punjab government was aimed to rid the society of the reviled patwari culture but it is still depending on patwaris as to verify family trees for inheritance mutation, correction of record, correction of names, demarcation of land and issuance of pass books.
The land record centres are governed by the independent Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA), which is governed by its board members. MPA Rana Babar Hussain, who heads the board of land record authority, expressed unawareness about the expiry of the contracts of the ADLRs.
He told The Express Tribune a board meeting of PLRA was scheduled for April 13 and he would take up the matter. He added the authority was considering to regularising the ADLRs.
Confirming that 457 SCOs were sacked recently, he said their hiring authority, Maqbool Ahmed Dhawla, former deputy project director of the Project Management Unit (Land Record Management Information System), was also under investigation for these recruitments.
Babar said the SCOs were sacked after the due procedure and after assessment of their working ability.
PLRA Director-General Capt (retd) Muhammad Zafar Iqbal said keeping in view the people-friendly policies of the chief minister, all recruitments would be made through a third party in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2017.