Since the last couple of weeks the wheel of the Revenue Department has stopped rotating as its basic and fundamental unit called as Patwari in local parlance has gone on strike. Superficially, it seems that this government employee is fond of resorting to this practice every now and then. It appears that this class of employees is habitual of regularly shunning its duties at the peril of common masses. But the situation is other way round if we assess their contentions without any prejudice. These employees actually demand the rights which are constitutionally guaranteed but denied to them for a long time which at times acts as a precursor for malpractices.
In the wake of changing times, where everybody wants to earn with dignity and honour, these employees are also struggling to find favour from the administration in deliverance of their rights which were neglected till now by both of them. It is natural that change happens with the passage of time so it demands synchronization of other affairs to get adapted with that change. Any kind of adamancy will surely hamper the pace of progress. In the contemporary times ones who lag behind becomes obsolete by default and obsoleteness is spontaneously erased by nature itself.
So, it has become the need of the hour for these lower rung revenue officials to seek necessary changes in order to get adapted with the changing times. These demands are actually the indispensable requirements without which the streamlining of this important facet of administration is unimaginable. This can well be gauged from the below given descriptions if only pondered over objectively:
Removal of Pay Anomaly of Graduate Patwaris:- As the recruitment rules are amended from time to time keeping up with the changing circumstances, the basic eligibility for the selection of Patwaris has now been kept as Bachelor’s degree with proficiency in Urdu. This move is quite valid keeping the nature of job and the literacy rate of our state into consideration. The applicants are made to go through the tedious selection process by the recruitment board. The selected ones are thereafter provided training in the Regional Revenue Training Institutes for almost a year. Thereafter , they have to pass the departmental examination in order to fully qualify to be a Patwari. The nature of the job by every stretch of imagination is ‘Technical’ in nature. So ‘Right to Equality’ envisages to at least raise the grade of Graduate Patwaris to 2800 from 2400 as that of Accounts Assistants of Finance Department who are recruited on the analogy of Patwaris that also without any specific skill requirement.
Rationalisation of Patwar-Halqas and Girdawar Circles:- In 2014, the new administrative units were created by the government with the aim of taking administration to the doorsteps of the people. The said exercise enhanced number of Niabats from 250 to 551, Tehsils from 82 to 217 and Subdivisions from 21 to 68 in our state. But , unknowingly the number of Girdawar circles and Patwar Halqaswere were not increased at all. Rationally and proportionately, they should also have been raised as these are the feeding cadre for the upper hierarchy. Currently the jurisdiction of GQ circles is much more than that of Naib Tehsildars and sometimes their jurisdiction overlapping to other Tehsils also. This important facet was neglected for unknown reasons and thereby defeating the very purpose of administration overhaul for which it was done primarily.
Initially steps were taken to bring Patwar Halqas co-terminus with Panchayat Halqas of the state as recommended by the same Cabinet Sub-committee which recommended creation of other administrative units but nothing moved on the ground and it remained on the papers only. It badly hampers the primary work of the field staff , that is, preparation of new record as the other associated work is cumbersome and ever-increasing.
Stop Direct Recruitment of Naib Tehsildars:- A Naib-tehsildar is an official under whose command and control all of the basic revenue related activities are performed. So in every case he should be proficient in revenue related matters for efficient functioning of this department. A qualified Girdawar after putting in decades of service appears in the prestigious Revenue Service Executive Examination conducted by the JKPSC in order to be eligible for the next promotion. Now under such circumstances what debars him /her to be a Naib Tehsildar after going through this exam and having enormous field experience under his belt? So it is quite logical and justified to elevate qualified Girdawars only to the post of Naib Tehsildars when they are equivalent to their educational qualifications also. Besides this, they are of proven competence who can run the affairs of this department quite professionally and smoothly as compared to directly recruited ones. This kind of arrangement has successfully been made in Education and Finance departments where only teachers are promoted up to ZEOs and Accounts Assistants up to Assistant Accounts Officers who carry higher pay scales than that of Naib-tehsildars. Further this step of stopping direct recruitment of Naib Tehsildars will also save the state exchequer from undue burden, as qualified Girdawars are nearly equivalent in terms of monthly emoluments as that of Naib Tehsildars.
Construction of Patwar Khanas / Providing of Rent for Private Accommodation:- There is no denying the fact that the department of Revenue has a pivotal role in running the administrative machinery of the state. Equally indubitable, is the fact that the department revolves wholly round the conduct and performance of the Patwaris. He is the sole lower rank official of the department working in the field and is the only link between the authorities and the general public. He performs almost all of the vital and fundamental duties necessary for running the department. Not only the revenue, e he often does activities which are imperative in the functioning of other departments particularly CA&PD, PWD (R&B), I&FC, RDD, Forest, Social Welfare and so on; hence the distressing workload and stressful conditions as well.
For performing all these vital functions, unbelievably, he has no official place to conduct his affairs at. In this scenario the Patwaris are compelled to arrange private accommodations on monthly rent which they, unbelievably, have to pay out of their own pockets. Moreover the facilities are often inadequate and also come with other day to day challenges as well. This also makes the all-important revenue record susceptible to adverse impact of weather and warehousing vagaries.
Moreover, the footfall of people visiting to Patwaris has increased considerably with the passage of time. It also breaches privacy of the households where the Patwari is putting up and has made common masses reluctant in lending their houses for such purposes. Hence, Patwaris had no choice but to arrange their accommodations in commercial areas thereby hiking its rent terribly as no such space is available at ease and everywhere.
The approach of the administration towards this significant facet of administration also amounts to the violation of Directive Principles of the Constitution as no appropriate place is provided to us for conducting our daily business. And, the amount paid by Patwari as rent is also not disbursed to him, which amounts to sheer injustice and foul play.
Regular conduction of DPCs for Patwaris and GQs:- It is a piece of legislation of our state that Departmental Promotion Committees should be conducted after every 6 months. But the field staff of our department including Patwaris and GQs had to wait for years together for their elevation to next level in hierarchy for the non-conduction of timely DPCs hence face stagnation in their career and sometimes curtailment in the shape of superannuation without accruing any benefit to them. Further it is the responsibility of the higher-ups to conduct DPCs periodically but unfortunately for this routine business the lower rung employees are made to come on roads as these routine activities are deferred for years together. This shows the callousness of the administration towards the rights of the poor employees. In this scenario, raising the flag of protest sometimes becomes imperative.
As already claimed, all these demands are logical and genuine as elucidated above. Majority of these propositions has been accepted by the government through its committee constituted for the purpose more than a year ago. Only the implementation part is delayed perpetually. This compels the Patwaris to register their protest periodically in order to wake-up the authorities from slumber. But, when it is proved beyond doubt that they are not in favour of their implementation an indefinite strike for their procurement becomes unavoidable. This right exercised is also a parliamentary one as ours is a socialistic welfare state and not any authoritative regime where the responsibility of guarding the lawful rights of the employees is as important as guarding the fundamental rights of the citizens.
—The Author is a basic member of the All J&K Patwari Association. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org