Land record management: Rural Punjab — where patwaris rule the roost

Majority of civil and criminal litigation revolves around the land revenue official

Javed Chishti September 27, 2015
Majority of civil and criminal litigation revolves around the land revenue official PHOTO: FILE

KALLAR SYEDAN: Deep-rooted, rampant and endemic corruption plagues patwars in rural Punjab.

Political involvement, bribery, and corruption at the level of the patwari not just results in depriving small land-owners of their rights and years of agonising litigation but also leads to feuds, violence and loss of precious lives.

A great number of all litigation, civil as well as criminal, revolves around the patwari — a land record official of basic pay scale grade five.

Cases at the revenue courts can drag on for as long as eight to ten years. People feel that there needs to be a specific policy requiring revenue courts to dispose of cases within five-to-six months and putting a limit on the number of hearings.

Similarly, the revenue policy initiated by the incumbent Punjab government needs to be fully implemented to provide relief to litigants.

The Supreme Court, in its recent judicial policy applicable to civil, criminal and family litigation, placed a limit on the number of hearings which has accelerated the judicial process.

The revenue department, which comes under the Punjab administration, needs to adopt a similar policy.

Lengthy litigation takes place at revenue courts involving cases such as transfer of property, partition of inheritance, gift and sale deeds, khasra gardawari, demarcation of land and others.

Though the Punjab government is working to computerise land records, the revenue department struggles as it has no record of the number of mauzas (estates) as there are no maps in the records. The lack of updated demarcation of land property and missing records remains a lingering problem.

Working system

A patwari gets a salary of Rs20,000 to a maximum of Rs30,000 a month. His responsibilities include maintaining proof of ownership records, and updating records in the mauza or estate every four years that may be needed in case of change in possession of land and transfers.

A tehsil has a number of mauzas or estates. One patwari is usually assigned to one mauza.

Interestingly, a patwari hires or contracts out his work to a number of usually trained or semi-trained locals popularly known as munshis, to help him with his work. At times six to ten munshis are hired by a single patwari.

Members of the public who deal with the land revenue department believe corruption is synonymous with the role of the munshi.

A possible way of addressing corruption at the level of the munshis is to hire those who are qualified, so that the government can keep a check on any malpractice.

Moreover, readers or clerks of the revenue court play a key role in prolonging cases. They usually charge one party or the other for every hearing.

Moreover, the local MPA or the MNA usually manages the politics of his/her constituency through misuse of both the local police and the office of the revenue department.

In most cases they enjoy complete control over appointments, postings and transfers of the local police and revenue department officials. This political interference and involvement is at the heart of the corrupting influence on the two departments.

Similarly, the land mafia in rural areas has managed to grow due to the corruption at the level of the patwaris.

When asked about the numerous estates where records were missing, and how that was affecting the process of computerisation of land records, Bilal Akbar Bhatti, chairperson Punjab Revenue, Relief and Consolidation Committee, told The Express Tribune that all efforts were being made to make use of the all available records to fix the issue. He said that complete computerisation of land records would ultimately address the issue of corruption at the level of patwaris.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2015.


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