On the Revenue Department: There’s More to it than Meets the Eye

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By Anznoo Wasim

A few days ago, I had an opportunity of reading an article in one of the leading dailies of the valley written by one of our popular journalists about the revenue department. This being the department where I work, it naturally aroused a lot of interest in me and I read it very keenly. “In the pencili world of revenue department” Naseer Ganai, the author of the article, tried to bring the nuances of this department to fore and offered a few remedies for the streamlining of the same. It is, in fact, among the very few of the attempts ever made given that the majority of the people have no understanding of the affairs of this government agency even though they are affected by its working in one way or the other.
The author rightly pinpointed few of the reforms he intends to get applied in running the business of this department. Primarily, he has suggested simplifying the language currently in vogue in this department. Keeping the latest developments, happenings around us, in mind is another suggestion he makes (this is no taboo). And, to his satisfaction and to the satisfaction of others at large these steps have already been afoot since the last few years. For instance, the number system now used to prepare fresh records are the commonly used English numericals and language employed is also a chaste Urdu with very few and unavoidable technical terms. This exercise is carried out mechanically on computers and thereby is legible to the Urdu-knowing literates.
Now, in terms of the other aspects of the article in contention, the author seems to be under some kind of compulsion to denigrate the revenue department. Beginning his article with an incident that had happened a year ago and manufacturing an aura which actually was not part of the original setting of the situation at hand, he points towards it. The author, however, has failed to reproduce exactly any episode which would demonstrate some kind of mischief. Instead, he has picked a word from a certain conversation going on between few officials of the department and then used this as a peg for his arguments. ‘Pencili’ , as the word suggests, depicts something written with a pencil. It is neither any rule nor any obligation to do so. It is done only to remember something temporary and emerging. The thing is made permanent with ink only when it comes out of its developmental stage and acquires permanence. This is done with a pure intention of saving the revenue record from any undue marks which are not of any use later on.
Being from the journalistic background, the author was expected to substantiate his views with some well-founded arguments laced with a little of research on the subject. His stature and position in the field of journalism can’t be questioned as he has enormous experience under his belt besides being alumni of the journalism school the product of which I myself am. But for some reasons, the case was not handled with the care it warrants.
After creating doubts in the minds of readers only by virtue of his sheer writing skills the author has tried to make home his point by buttressing it with other overheard stuff from some revenue conference. Pick choosing quotes from this official function and using as per his exigent need has helped him making the write-up sensational. Admittedly, the department lacks vibrancy due to the lack of infrastructure and logistics but that is not specific to revenue department only. It is the tale of every other government department. Officials working there have little role in making any perpetual change in it.
Moreover, there are certain tasks which need specific skills and training to perform. Revenue qualifies to be one among them. At this juncture, may I have an honour to ask that how much is the author or any other educated person able to understand the judicial parlance, financial code or engineering bills and memos? (Not to talk of medical procedures and economic terminology). No doubt all this have a direct bearing on all of us. How on earth can an ordinary literate be able to comprehend fully the technicalities in which he has not been trained in? It is quiet naïve of us to put the learned judge and the ordinary appellant at par with each other in fathoming judicial intricacies.
It takes a Patwari whole year of training and then passing a full five paper exam to qualify him to be for the position. That is, despite being him a graduate from some educational institute and qualifying the competitive exams conducted by the selection board. So, it takes more than just literacy to be a skilled person. These things ought to be respected as they are universal. Change in itself is inevitable. It happens whether one likes it or not.

—The Author is a basic member of the All J&K Patwari Association. He can be reached at: anznoowasim@gmail.com>