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Opinion

March 5, 2016

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Changing lives

Changing lives

Punjab is in the midst of a major transformation. New benchmarks of performance are being set and a culture of dedicated public service is being shaped. The welfare of the common man continues to define the conduct of the Punjab government.

As we take on the decades-old challenges impeding the process of delivering efficient governance, I am driven by the resolve of turning the whole system into a pro-people arrangement – efficient, reliable, accountable and geared towards promoting the public interest.

I believe that for change to become permanent and self-sustaining, it has to emanate from the restructuring of the system. Fixing the system is paramount to changing the ways in which the government conducts itself and interacts with its citizens.

The installation of the Land Records and Management and Information System (LRMIS) in all the 36 districts of the Punjab province represents a generational transformation. This is an emerging success story of changing lives through empowerment of local communities.

Punjab, a province of 100 million people, is one of the most fertile regions of Pakistan and is known for its agricultural produce throughout the world. The people of Punjab consider land as their most prized asset, a source of pride, and an identity. The province has about 56.5 million landowners.

Punjab inherited the system of management of land records from the British. This system, which evolved over centuries, has been maintained manually on paper through a complex system involving several levels of administration. The Patwar culture represents the lowest administrative level for land records system, which has been intact since ages. The Patwar culture has lost its efficacy, credibility and relevance and has become a symbol of corruption, humiliation and wastage of time. There has been much talk of overhauling the Patwar system but nothing ever translated into reality.

It was in 2008 that my government embarked on the revolutionary project of replacing the manual, paper-based system with the Land Record Management and Information System (LRMIS). The vision underlining the digitisation of the land records was marked by the establishment of an efficient, equitable, accountable and secure land record system, with an objective to make people’s access easier by ensuring transparency and security of land rights. The project was launched with the financial assistance of the World Bank. Policy advice, technical input and specialised guidance of the World Bank experts went into the planning and design of the project.

The LRMIS project proved to be quite challenging. Several components of the project such as the designing and re-engineering of business processes, archiving and data entry of manual revenue record, capacity building of personnel, verification of digitised data and deployment of LRMIS equipment at the tehsil level, and above all monitoring and evaluating took time.

Add to this mix high resistance from the beneficiaries of the Patwar system and you have a real challenge at hand. Anyone else would have faltered and given up on the project. But we stayed the course and slowly worked our way towards the goal. The dream of eliminating the Patwar culture has been realised at the back of strong leadership commitment, effective management, continuous administrative support and dedicated work by the project team.

Since manually maintained land records were complex, unreadable and scattered in different registers and locations, archiving and digitised entry of land records was a fundamental challenge. A large part of the record was also not available, having either been damaged or misplaced. Likewise, a large number of inherent inconsistencies and errors in the manual record also constituted a major obstacle to the speedy implementation of the project.

After the scanning of more than 10 million pages, the manual record of 22,000 rural estates of more than 55.5 million landowners has been digitised. Due to dedicated efforts, a large number of various records have been retrieved or reconstructed. The centuries-old record has been cleansed and made transparent as huge numbers of inconsistencies prevailing in manual record were also corrected to give land owners their right share.

To deliver services, state-of-the-art and purpose-built Arazi Record Centres, equipped with all the allied facilities, have been established at all 143 tehsils across the province.

An organisation with good human resource is vital to achieve tangible results. Hence, these centres have been staffed with more than 3,000 employees through a transparent and merit-based recruitment process. The staff was imparted training in revenue record, IT, office management techniques and interpersonal and behavioural skills by the in-house training facility of the Punjab Board of Revenue. To secure land record data, the BOR has installed its private – and completely secure – network in 143 tehsils all over Punjab.

Citizens are getting state-of-the-art computerised land-record services such as issuance of ‘fard’, attestation of agricultural pass books, and attestation of mutations at the Arazi Record Centres established across all the 143 Tehsils of Punjab. A customer can get ‘fard’ in 30 minutes after going through basic minimum formalities.

The buyers and sellers are given a copy of mutation and copy of updated ‘record of rights’, free of cost, with the photographs of the buyers printed thereon. The attested mutations are immediately incorporated in the revenue record and the updated land record is automatically uploaded online.

The LRMIS will be a real game-changer, ensuring transparency and an efficient system for maintaining land records. The computerised data base has enhanced the integrity of the revenue records and protected people’s property rights. The LRMIS is a watershed; it particularly empowers women by protecting their inheritance rights and facilitating their access to land records.

Structured on a ‘first come, first serve’ concept, the LRMIS signals an end to the VIP culture. It is also a seminal step towards modern agriculture as data and imagery so collected will help forecast expected yield of various crops. The number of legal cases that linger on for generations in the civil courts will also reduce drastically.

Well-defined and well-protected land rights through computerisation of land records will empower individuals and stabilise communities. The LRMIS will certainly play a role in improving governance, regulating land markets and fostering economic activity in the province.

The project is an example of out-of-the-box thinking driving transformation with innovation in a culture defined by the status quo. The successful operation of the LRMIS has shown that if there is a will, there is certainly a way.

The writer is the chief minister of Punjab. Facebook: facebook.com/shehbazsharif

Twitter: @CMShehbaz

 

 

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