LAHORE - The computerisation of land records in the Punjab will not be completed by the end of the current fiscal year, the deadline for the purpose, as a result of which people will continue to be at the mercy of corrupt patwaris.

The situation contradicts the government’s tall claims made through official advertisements that the records had been computerised and the patwaris excluded from the complex procedure of sale and purchase of lands.

The sources said although service centres were functioning in 98 tehsils of the province, the work was likely to be completed next year.

The official sources told this scribe that June 2014 was the deadline for the Revenue Department regarding completion of computerisation process. But, despite the tall claims made by the Punjab government, eradication of ‘Patwari Culture’ from the province would remain a dream for some months because of a lot of complications. Thousands of files are still missing from various revenue circles and could not be recovered so far.

The sources further said the computerisation process had been in progress since 2013 under the supervision of the district administrations and was being reviewed by the divisional commissioners on the directions of the Punjab chief minister in order to motivate the officials deputed for the purpose so that they could speed up the task. All the divisional commissioners are chairing review meetings held in this regard regularly, but the target has yet to be achieved.

The insiders told this scribe that the Punjab government had started computerisation of land records with a view to improving service delivery and enhancing the perceived level of tenure security. A project management unit had also been formed under the administrative control of the Punjab Board of Revenue, they added.

Giving details about the working, they said the main objective of initiating system of land computerisation was to provide the public with an increased access to land records at lower transaction cost, through a client-responsive service; increased security of land titles and collateral value of land to help boost the economic activity. “As a result, the people will get rid of the patwari mafia and Fard (i.e. copy of record of rights) will be issued in less than 30 minutes and attestation of mutation within less than 50 minutes,” they maintained.

“After completion of computerisation of records, banks will be able to directly verify the record at the time of advancing loans. Data entry has already been completed in 23 districts and is in progress in 12 districts,” they revealed.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had claimed that the project would be completed by June 2014 in 140 tehsils and this modern system would become fully functional in all the districts of the province. He had further claimed during his speeches that computerisation of land record would eliminate corruption, bribery and forgery and rid the people of exploitation by patwaris and tehsildars.

The government officials believe the project would introduce transparency in land record and end corruption at all levels. Land deeds, records and mutations have been among the major sources of exploitation by the revenue officials. The manual land record system has been the major source of property-related disputes and litigation in the province, which, in turn, had overburdened the entire legal system.

They said the Punjab had already amended Land Revenue Act of 1967 for the purpose, and the Land Records Management and Information System would withdraw two main functions from patwaris – issuance of copies of, or extracts from, the revenue record and entertainment of mutations.

After the completion of the process, all the functions will go to the computerised service centres set up for the purpose. At such centres, only a limited number of employees would be allowed to run the system, which will prevent fraud in the land records.