Reforms required urgently

British saw to it that no major reform was carried in revenue department
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SHAHEEN MUHAMMAD ASHRAF

In his book, veteran writer and hon’ble M.P Mr Shashi Tharoor describes British rule an “era of darkness”. And why not ? From being largest economy in the world, 200 years of British ruler transferred India virtually into pauper state and drove wedge between Hindus and Muslims, who together fought first war of independence in 1857. British rulers were cunning to the core, that is why British rule survived hardly 200 years, they carried reforms which suited their imperial interests. They introduced cheap English knowing “clerks’’ and encouraged them to be corrupted and oppressive. They wantonly believed that by this arrangement their grip on administration deepened. But with this thing resentment against British rule increased more and more. British saw to it that no major reform are carried in revenue department and in fact they made it more oppressive.

Revenue department in J&K had carried out some reforms in the past including digitisation of records, but by and large a visit to any revenue department reminds one of evil British rule with extreme red-tape,non-accountability, with-all powerful “Patwaris” calling shots, and putting common public to utter oppression for ulterior motives. This is the only department where a junior official is extremely powerful and where files have to be moved physically by common public themselves, rather than normal official procedure, where files  are carried by orderlies. I wonder what for are orderlies in this department. While interacting with some revenue official it came to fore that there is extreme dearth of Patwaris, and many have additional charge. Malaise  afflicting is beyond shortage of staff.

While the country, especially UT, J&K is fast moving towards transparency and e-governance, there does not seem to be any of such modernity in revenue department. In fact patwaris are so powerful that any deliberate  wrong entries by them can never be rectified at tehsil or nayabat level not to say of Girdawar level. Most unfortunate aspect is that seniors always toe their line whenever any genuine allegation is levelled against patwaris. Patwaris have become virtually a holy-word as far as record is concerned, being custodian of the record. This monopoly of record–keeping needs to be broken.

In order to give relief to public and ensure transparency, following steps are required to be taken immediately.

1) Creation of a portal for diarization :-  A central portal accessible anywhere needs to be created, where application for land transfer, building permission (currently building permission is being initiated from Tehsil office in Srinagar) needs to be uploaded. Disposal of the same can be monitored from Divisional Commissioner office. Till the portal is created, manual diarization in Tehsil office, with proper stamped receipt needs to be enforced. Current system forces direct interaction with Patwaris,  with  no receipt and no application.

2) Elimination of Urdu :-  Howsoever hold you have on Urdu language, still you will never be able to understand what patwari has written, except perhaps your name. With the result patwaris have monopoly over this. Little wonder scams such as where in land transferred in the name of many. I request all, please don’t treat elimination of Urdu as revenue language as attack on religion or any conspiracy. Use of this language, in revenue department for land transfer etc., is a source of oppression, corruption and scams. It is time to shift to simple English; earlier it is done the better.

3) Appointment of more Patwaris: As per many sources most of patwaris have additional charge. Result of this overburden is that people are suffering so there is urgent need of more appointments. Meanwhile services of teachers can be utilised as in case of electoral roll updation.

4) Accommodation within office: Patwaris usually are never housed in office premises, like any other official. Since perhaps feudal ages they sit in those makeshift accommodations like shopkeepers. This has taken away from them sense of being “govt employee” and “public servant”. They have rather become masters of public. There is urgent need of housing them inside Tehsil offices, with cabin system. I am reminded of a rift between producer and director K. Asif of magnum opus Mughle Azam. K. Asif  insisted on providing shoes to character of Emperor Akbar, which cost Rs 25000, a very huge sum in those days. Finally producer had to yield before the demand of the director. K Asif told him that prithvi-raj  Ji must have a feeling of “Emperor Akbar”. To conclude “Emperor Patwaris’’ must get full feeling of being public servants rather masters of public, which practically nowadays they are.

5) Training with mission:  There is urgent need of training, on job training and periodic training, where in patwaris need to be ‘sensitised’ on being responsible to public.

Though I am not expert in revenue matters, but I am sure some of the above measures will go a long way in making revenue department more people friendly.

Shaheen Mohmmad Ashraf, Director Finance ARI & Trainings

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