LAHORE - Government of the Punjab started computerization of land records with a view to improving service delivery and to enhance the perceived level of tenure security. A Project Management Unit has been set up under the administrative control of the Board of Revenue, Punjab.

The system of land computerization would provide 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. The people will be rid of the patwari mafia, and issuance of Fard (i.e. copy of record of rights) will be provided in less than 30 minutes and attestation of mutation in less than 50 minutes. Earlier, people had to from pillar to post to get the certificate from patwari to prove the ownership of the land. After completion of computerization of records, banks can directly verify the record at the time of advancing loan. Data entry has already been completed in 23 districts, and is in progress in 12 districts.

Addressing inaugural ceremony of Land Record Centre at Lahore Cantt recently, Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that the historic project of computerization of land record will be completed by June 2014 in 140 Tehsils, and this modern system will be fully functional in all districts of the province. He said that computerization of land record will eliminate corruption, bribery and forgery in the matters relating to land as well as rid the people of the obsolete and exploitative system of Patwari and Tehsildar. He said: “Computerization of land record has also eliminated the threat of theft and loss of documents in fire or flood. Service centers are functioning in 98 Tehsils of the province, while work will be completed in the remaining Tehsils by next year.

There is a flawed perception that residents of urban centers only would gain from the system, whereas 2/3rd of the population residing in rural areas would also benefit from the system.

It is increasingly recognized that well-defined property rights are crucial for realizing the benefits of market exchange. The reduction in expropriation risk and facilitation of market transactions are the two main pillars through which property rights systems affect economic outcomes. As long as minimum legal recognition is enforced, adjudication processes that are based on local consent can significantly reduce expropriation risk. In contrast, full realization of gains from trade requires that reasonably complete, and current information on the assignment of property rights - which is normally provided by public registries - be available at low cost to agents with sufficiently diverse skills to allow efficiency-enhancing transactions. Credit impacts from land titling or registration would be expected only if such efforts are comprehensive, and third parties such as mortgage lenders can access reliable registry information at low cost on a routine basis.

The realization of gains from trade requires that reasonably complete and current information on the assignment of property rights be available at low cost.

The project would bring transparency in land record and would end corruption right from patwari (the lowest rung of the revenue bureaucracy) upwards, which feeds the entire system. Land deeds, records and mutation 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. The extent of it overloading legal system had forced the Supreme Court to order computerization of land record. Punjab has already amended its Land Revenue Act of 1967 for the purpose, and the Land Records Management and Information System would withdraw two main functions from the patwari, which are: issuance of copies of, or extracts from, the revenue record and entertainment of mutations.

From now onwards, both functions will go to the computerized service centres set up for the purpose. At these centers, only a limited number of employees, with properly recorded bio-metrics, would be allowed to enter into the system, which will prevent rigging in the land records. In the other parts of the world, the system has brought immense social and financial benefits to the societies. For example, it has facilitated formal sector into agriculture lending.

The banks are given a limited access to the record, which formalized the collateral and made lending easy and transparent in many countries of the world. In Pakistan, the entire record is a suspect in Pakistan as banking collateral, and it deters the banks and other formal lenders in advancing loans or credit.

Computerization of land records and information system would help boost economy, as it will expedite the process of granting loan for expanding production and marketing.