“I had never imagined that the old revenue record could ever be replaced by the new digital system. This system has not only saved my time, but also saved me money,” says Mr. Ijaz Ahmad from Tehsil Jahanian in Khanewal District.
The government of Punjab has digitized the province’s rural land records in an effort to improve service delivery and make the records less dispersed. The Land Records Management Information System (LRMIS) has been rolled out in all 36 districts of Punjab through 143 Arazi Record Centers (ARCs). The biggest achievement is that the project reduces the time required to complete transactions from two months to just 45 minutes. The centers have also helped lower costs, increase transparency, and improve governance.
Under the old, manual system of records, it could be a struggle to get hold of the Patwari, the village accountant responsible for land records. Bribes were often expected, greatly increasing the cost of transactions, and women faced special hurdles in securing their rights to ancestral land. And information was easily lost, since the Patwaris, the sole custodians of the records, demarked land titles on a sheet of cloth without any backup.
“I went with my relatives for the transfer of my grandparent’s property in Kasur district. I was pleasantly surprised by this new computerized system”, says Shabnam, a local user. “We went there and we got our work done within no time. The best thing about these centers is that they have female staff to attend the female clients. This makes us even more comfortable. ”
Shafique Ahmed from Bhamniwala said that he went to the ARC in Kasur for title transfer of two acres of land for his brother. “The new system is very good and corruption free. Unlike the old manual system, this computerized record system is foolproof, and no one can transfer our land illegally, which is a big relief.” But he noted scope for further improvement: “The service centers are overcrowded. The queues are really long, and people have to wait long hours for their turn. Now that they have computerized all the records, government should focus on opening new service centers or increase the capacity of the existing ones.”
Another beneficiary was happy about the fact that the LRMIS deals equally with everyone. One gets equal treatment irrespective of the land size on first come, first serve basis. And Shahnaz described a radically different experience from the past: “This new computerized system has saved us from all that hassle. I came here today and am very happy that the staff is so helpful and this system is transparent and corruption-free.”
The LRMIS has brought a revolutionary change to the lives of landowners in rural Punjab. The next phase will focus on digitizing records in urban areas. And the project is being replicated in other provinces. It has replaced the inefficient, corruption-prone Patwar culture in the province with a transparent, quick and digitized revenue records system aimed at helping legitimate owners, the majority of whom are small holders. The computerized land records system is also expected to reduce instances of land dispute litigation clogging the courts of law.