The Punjab Land Records Authority (PLRA) once again emerged as a beacon of hope in this difficult time. The authority set a benchmark for its quality of services and following the guidelines in corona Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). When the shutters were down, the capitalists closed their doors. People were becoming unemployed. Hunger, starvation and poverty are rampant. The nation was in a strange dilemma, what to do when with every passing day difficulties were increasing. Fear has taken hold on all sides. The coronavirus has jammed the wheel of life. Meanwhile, the federation and all its units do not appear to be on one page. The government and the opposition are also engaged in exchanging barbs. The situation is getting worse. How many stoves will be turned off during this time? How many children go to bed hungry? No one knows.

The contagious virus spreads from human to human in much the same way as seasonal flu, potentially through touching a surface or the hand of a contaminated person. The most common mechanism by which it spreads is by droplets from coughs and sneezes of infected people. The pandemic not only ruined the economy but also collapsed most businesses which may not able to recover in the near future. The best way forward is to promote small and medium enterprises operated through ‘faceless and spaceless’ places. This is the time when challenges need to be converted into opportunities. Only those who will change in accordance to the changing circumstances will survive.

The spread is increasing pressure on the economy day by day. It’s very simple; businesses exist only if they produce something. If they can’t, they have nothing to sell. If they can’t sell, they can’t sustain themselves. What makes a difference is the use of wisdom. Exercise wisdom and go one step forward.

PLRA made a surprise move in this regard by taking the lead, and opened its remote Arazi Record Centre to extend relief to the poor masses by taking all precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures were introduced, keeping in view the recommended social distancing practices. The initiative took place at a time when it was beyond one’s imagination to accept the challenges and afford such risks. The authority not only caters to the needs of people but also introduced its modern and innovative style of service delivery through its helpline and online services. Now, people are enjoying free-of-cost express service delivery which was earlier offered for Rs5000 per time slot, the processing charges for express services. Institutions like NADRA, LDA etc. are also seeking help to replicate, a similar version like the model introduced by PLRA.

We only talk about strengthening institutions when it is urgently needed. In general, no one is interested in increasing their capacity. The ARC officers and officials played a pivotal role in regulating the quarantine centres and hsas program in most of the districts. In this most troubling time, PLRA has been seen as the most active player in compliance and extending necessary support to all its aligned department. The Punjab Disaster management authority also sought technological and human resource support from PLRA with guidance from the Board of Revenue, Punjab which is a splendid example of horizontal coordination among the peer departments.

All government agencies, including private ones, should be encouraged to replicate the PLRA model to avoid future uncertainties. These initiatives will lead to transparency in institutions, a significant increase in government revenue, and the establishment of a documented and cashless economy, which government officials often cite. If there is prosperity then there will be a brighter Pakistan. The west probably came to this conclusion in the seventies when it gave importance to and worked to strengthen its institutions and enhancing their capacity. They offered workers equal rights, minimised pay gaps and ensured protection of workers’ basic interests. The rich were prevented from becoming rich, the poor were brought out of poverty. This is the main reason why all of our youth is being drawn towards the West today. Introduce appropriate changes to the laws to protect basic interests and to ensure their gradual implementation, otherwise the poverty line will slip lower.

Muhammad Shafiq Ch.

The writer is the Addtional Director Operations, Punjab Land Records Authority.